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Nelson Mandela influenced great change in South Africa that resonated around the world. He was a pioneer in ending white minority rule and fostering post-apartheid reconciliation in the early 1990s. In 1994, he became South Africa’s first democratically-elected president and its first black leader. Unlike his predecessors, Mandela stepped down at the conclusion of his term.
Before becoming president, Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. He was jailed for standing up to the human rights abuses committed by the apartheid government against black South Africans. When he was released from prison in 1990, Mandela addressed the crowds from Cape Town’s City Hall, saying:
“I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands.”
As a sign of gratitude for his selflessness, many South Africans refer to Mandela as Madiba, the African name of his tribe. When Mandela was a child, it was customary for a South African student to be assigned an English name. In school, he came to be known as Nelson. Many South Africans still refer to Mandela as Madiba as a sign of respect and endearment, paying tribute to his African roots.
After his presidency, Mandela became a philanthropist with a special focus on education. Through the Nelson Mandela Foundation in 1999, he pursued noble work such as rural development, school construction, and combating HIV/AIDS.
Nelson Mandela’s legacy of humility and service lives on not only in South Africa, but also around the world
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