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Nelson Mandela: Celebrating a Champion of Freedom

In light of the loss of Nelson Mandela, we would like to highlight some of the many ways this great inspiration was a true leader of the people and advocate for freedom around the world.

by Caitlin Hotchkiss Posted on 05 December 2013
Johannesburg, South Africa—February 13, 1990. Former South African President Nelson Mandela, shows the freedom salute after his release from prison.

Today, the world lost one of its foremost champions of freedom in Nelson Mandela. This larger-than-life figure was a true inspiration for us here at G Adventures, and today we wanted to highlight some of the many ways that he was a leader of the people, a fighter of prejudice, and an advocate for freedom around the world.

Dedicated to fighting injustice

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom.

Nelson Mandela was involved with civil rights protests all the way back to his student days, and became politically involved when he joined the African National Congress in 1944, assisting in the formation of the ANC Youth League. He campaigned against unjust laws in 1952, and was sentenced to nine months hard labour under the Suppression of Communism Act. This would not be Mandela’s first brush with the law; he was later arrested in 1955 along with 156 other activists in what would become known as the “Treason Trial.” Mandela was among those acquitted, but his dedication to fighting injustice didn’t waver.

Ready to sacrifice all for his people

In 1962, under a false name, Mandela secretly left South Africa for England in order to raise awareness for the country’s corruption and to drum up support for the struggle against its government. But when he returned, he was arrested and charged with illegally leaving South Africa, which led to his imprisonment – and eventually facing the death penalty along with a number of his ANC comrades.

From his “Speech from the Dock” in 1964:

“I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. 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.” Read Mandela's speech in full here.

Mandela was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment rather than death; he spent many of the following years being transferred from prison to prison, suffering numerous illnesses (including tuberculosis and prostate cancer), yet still advocating for talks between the ANC and the apartheid government of South Africa. He rejected conditional releases, refusing to compromise his ideals for a just nation.

Freedom is not merely casting off one’s chains

A poem which famously inspired Nelson Mandela during his decades of incarceration graces the walls outside of our founder’s office — William Henley’s 'Invictus'.

“A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity…. For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” —Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela was finally released in 1990, and took over as ANC president the following year. In 1993, he jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize with President FW de Klerk, and in 1994 he was elected president of South Africa, a true victory for all those who have been oppressed due to their beliefs. Even after he retired from public service in 1999, Mandela continued his charity work with various foundations, striving for equality and democracy for all.

A long walk to freedom

When Nelson Mandela passed away today, the world lost one of its bravest freedom fighters—yet his legacy lives on in the hearts of anyone who advocates for a kinder, more democratic and equal world.

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” —Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

Getting There

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