On what would have been his 100th birthday, we remember Nelson Mandela as an activist and the first black president of South Africa. He saw himself, however, as a servant of South Africa’s people and was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities,” he said. “It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Mandela wasn’t using hyperbole. He meant it. He spoke these words during the 1964 trial where it was widely assumed he’d receive a death sentence for his activism and conspiring to overthrow South Africa’s apartheid government. Sincerity may have spared Mandela’s life. We are the better for it. He went on to promote equality and justice for all people during and after his 27 years in prison.
Mandela’s dream of peaceful coexistence and equal opportunity are ideals United Way and so many are striving for today in South Africa, the U.S. and around the world. We believe in equal opportunity at birth, with proper pre-natal care for mothers, and a safe and healthy environment for their children. We believe in equal opportunity for a good education – both in and out of school – and for the food, clothing, supplies and other tools students need to succeed. And when success eludes us, we believe in a system of support that provides equal opportunity to regain steady footing and income for a good quality of life.
Equal opportunity to education, income and health is the foundation of a good life and the bulwark against poverty. Everyone has the ability to change the world for the better, to alleviate poverty and to provide equal opportunity for all. Let’s celebrate Mandela’s birth, his life and legacy by taking action against poverty today:
Give what you can to organizations battling poverty every day
Advocate for policies that inspire and aid those who are struggling in our midst
Volunteer to help ensure a healthy start, a good education and financial stability for all.
Remember Mandela’s ideals. Live them. Live United.