In 1990, I had the honor and privilege to be at Spelman College as the nation’s historically black colleges and universities came together to honor Nelson Mandela. Mandela had just been released from prison. HBCU after HBCU presented him with honorary degrees, both in recognition for his sacrifice and for the hope and promise he was now to bring to his country and to the world.
For this high school senior from a little town in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, it was an experience I simply can’t express in words. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, something that has stayed with me for nearly 25 years, and something I will never quite experience again.
So many great words have been written in the past 24 hours about Mandela and his legacy. And they are far greater words than I can write here. Knowing how I was impacted just seeing him that day, and seeing the way American higher education embraced him, I can only imagine the impact he had on his own nation and those who were privileged to know him, work beside him, and carry on his legacy.
Eduflack is a big fan of quotes. So it only seems appropriate to offer up a few of my favorites from Mandela:
“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
“Lead from the back – and let others believe they are in front.”
“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”