Even though I was a young child, I remember it as if it was yesterday.
The family was gathered in the living room about to take part in what was considered a daily ritual—gathering around the television to watch the evening news. We watched news during a time when the anchors and reporters provided only the facts without editorializing or adding their spin. During that time, there were no “liberal” or “conservative” news channels. The news gave the family some insight into what was happening in the world beyond the small town in which I was born and lived.
My uncle turned and asked me, “what is apartheid?” After I responded that I did not know, he quickly informed me that I had better find out what it was. So, I began my quest. Being raised in a time when we did what our elders asked of us without question or reproach, I began to learn everything I could about apartheid. In a time when there was no world wide web of information, Google, Twitter, or Facebook, I checked out books from the library. I checked the card catalog and consulted the reference section. My uncle said that I had better know about apartheid, so, I learned.
Of course you could not study the subject without gaining some insight and understanding of the man, Nelson Mandela. At the time that I began to study the subject of apartheid, Nelson Mandela was still a prisoner.
Fast forward to today—last week the world lost Nelson Mandela. Headlines from every corner of the world spoke of a man who fought, stood up for, and went to prison because he believed in equal rights for people of all races in South Africa. He was a civil rights leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and a president.
Today’s youth understand and know about music, fashion, and which celebrities are dating. They know sports statistics as if they were cashing multi-million dollar checks along with the athletes. In the last few days our children have been reading the Twitter feeds and catching the snippets of the news that honor the life and mourn the death of Nelson Mandela. While it may seem like a passing headline in the news to some, I challenge anyone that knows a youngster to ask them, “who is Nelson Mandela and why should we celebrate his life?” If they don’t know, push them, as my uncle did, to research and find the answer.
What will the discussions be as it pertains to civil rights in this country and countries around the world now that Nelson Mandela has passed? What are we encouraging our children to learn?
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela