Bridgewater State University’s Mandela Washington fellows visited the Massachusetts Statehouse recently to join in a celebration marking the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth.
The fellows participated in a ceremony in the Great Hall of Flags to honor South Africa’s first democratically elected president. Here are BSU fellows’ thoughts about President Mandela, who died in 2013:
KIRSTEN HORNBY, South Africa: “It wasn’t just that he made South Africa into a democracy, he laid down the interests of himself and desire for retribution against the people who oppressed him for decades.”
MARTHA GURARO, Ethiopia: “Most people in my country view Nelson Mandela as a sign of freedom, persistence, love and unity. We are so grateful for his values. Because of Mandela and his wonderful principles, we are changing the nation. His values still work in leadership today.”
UMAR FARUK KABIR, Nigeria: He admires President Mandela’s “personal values of peace and forgiveness” and his political skill to “use resources at the time that they mattered most.”
Fellows also discussed bringing President Mandela’s values to the work they do at home and beyond.
JOHANN HENRICH KRIGE, South Africa: “The challenges we face as a country and continent are vast. The thing I’d like to see more of in our leaders is the concept of public service — something that Mandela modeled.”
MS. HORNBY: “Mandela’s legacy is about recognizing the humanity of people who are different (than) me. I must make sure that I am modeling that leadership and inspire people around me to model that leadership.”
MS. GURARO: What “we have learned in the past month at Bridgewater State University — and what we have experienced … amongst ourselves as representatives of 18 African countries — is that democracy is a painful process. It’s not easy, even here in the U.S. I think it’s on us to work on our institutions; we have so much to do. I feel that as a young leader, we need to walk that long walk that Mandela started — and as Mandela said, ‘No one is free unless all of us are free.’”
This summer marks the third consecutive year that Bridgewater has hosted a cohort from the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. BSU is hosting 25 fellows for a six-week academic and leadership institute. (Story by Charlie Peters and Brian Benson, photos by Drew Cambra, ’19, for University News)