December 11, 2013
As I’m sure is the case these days with most Oberlinians, Nelson Mandela has been very much on my mind. I know others in our community are going to share their thoughts and feelings about Mandela. Allow me to briefly share mine.
I feel deeply saddened by Mandela’s passing. But I also find some solace thinking about his remarkable life and his leadership, wisdom, courage, and vision. Millions of lives around the world have been touched by Mandela’s actions and words.
While I never met Nelson Mandela, I have admired him since I was in high school in Lexington, Kentucky, where I first learned about his remarkable life and work. He had a significant effect on my life.
I will always be inspired by his accomplishments, his humanity, and his humility. His life reminds us of the power of ideas, the importance of education, and the value of forgiveness and reconciliation.
I have visited South Africa multiple times over the years, as a student, and later with my family. I did some academic work there while I was at the University of Michigan. I also visited Robben Island, where Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years. I was amazed to learn that while in prison, Mandela and his colleagues created a school, a makeshift Robben Island University. In wretched conditions, they educated themselves, their fellow prisoners, and even some jailors. Despite horrific conditions, they still believed in education as the path to social change and uplift.
To me, Nelson Mandela’s life demonstrates that in the most difficult times, we can endure, educate ourselves, and work together toward equality and justice.
When I became Oberlin’s president, I learned that there is a connection between our college and Nelson Mandela. One of Mandela’s heroes, John L. Dube, studied at Oberlin. Dube was a great educator and the father of the African National Congress. Like Mandela, he believed education had the power to transform lives and nations for the better.
David Dorsey, director of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life is working in collaboration with Dean Alison Williams of the Multicultural Resource Center and Professor Pam Brooks of the Department of Africana Studies tribute to Nelson Mandela led by students at Finney Chapel. This is scheduled for 30 minutes during the lunch hour on Friday, December 13, from 12:30 to 1:00 p.m. All members of our community are welcome.
I hope everyone has had a good semester. As always, it has flown past. I wish everyone the best of luck with their final exams, papers, projects, concerts, recitals, and performances. Remember to eat right, get some sleep, and exercise. You’ve heard me say this before, but it bears repeating. Even a brisk 10-minute walk can help clear your mind and ease stress. So take care and be well.
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