I was two months old when Nelson Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize and eight months when he won the South African presidency. Although he couldn’t have had an impact on me then, I look to him for guidance with my degree in political science and a potential career in public service.

Today, the world commemorates the legacy of a man whose extraordinary vision for peace, justice, and the liberation of humanity is unparalleled.

On November 10th 2009, the UN General Assembly convened its 64th session and adopted the resolution to establish July 18th as Nelson Mandela International Day. This resolution outlines his service to the poor and marginalized, dedication to gender and race equality, and the willpower to overcome the impossible.

Looking back, it’s important to understand the context he came out of.

When the South African National Party came into power in 1948, apartheid--which comes from the Afrikaans word “apartness”--was implemented. This strict form of racial segregation disenfranchised and undermined the black community for nearly five decades.

Mandela was an influential leader within the largely black African National Congress (ANC) and mobilized the Defiance Campaign in 1952, an effort to break racial segregation in South Africa. In such a hostile climate, Mandela’s activity within the congress was framed as sabotage and he was sentenced to prison.

During his twenty-seven year imprisonment, Mandela, his supporters, and the international community remained loyal to the cause of securing equality for all the people of South Africa. He was identified as the symbol of the anti-apartheid movement.

It was not until 1990, when President Frederik Willem de Klerk denounced the policies of apartheid and called for the release of all ANC activists, including Mandela, that he once again walked free.

Mandela received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his life-long devotion to end segregation. He served as President of South Africa for one term and remained active as an international peacekeeper at the UN until his death in 2013.

What global citizens can do

Nelson Mandela International Day is known as a call to action for all global citizens to reflect upon Mandela’s ideals, which have guided us in the fight to end extreme poverty.

Fifteen years after the global community’s establishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), over 1 billion people have been lifted out of poverty (defined as living on less than USD $1.25 a day). The primary school net enrolment rate has reached 91% in 2015, up from 83% in 2000 and the global under-five mortality rate has declined by more than half, dropping from 90 to 43 deaths per 1,000 live births between 1990 and 2015.

Tremendous strides have been made from the MDGs, but it’s up to us to ensure that the millions of people who continue to suffer from hunger, health, conflict, inequality and the lack of education, are liberated from extreme poverty.

Mandela’s voice had the ability to shape the unthinkable. If the power of one voice was able to accomplish that, just think about what the powerful voices of many global citizens can do to help those who cannot be heard.

Ending the injustices of the world might seem impossible for some, but if you see the world through the optimistic and empowering eyes of Mandela, all change is possible.

Mandela made the anti-apartheid cause a global issue; you can make developing a world free of extreme poverty and equal for all by making the Global Goals famous. Go to TAKE ACTION NOW and share the Global Goals with the world.


Demand Equity

Honoring the Extraordinary Vision & Legacy of Nelson Mandela

By John Bertino