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Cheyney Community Reflects on the Death of Nelson Mandela

December 6, 2013

The flags at Cheyney University of Pennsylvania flew at half-staff in early December in honor of Nelson Mandela. South Africa's first black president passed away December 5, 2013 at his home, surrounded by his family, after battling a persistent lung infection for weeks.  He was 95 years old.

Dr. Bradley Buchner, Cheyney Professor and Chair of the Social & Behavioral Sciences Department said he is mourning the loss of a truly great human being.  "Nelson Mandela was a man of exceptional grace, dignity, and vision--a towering leader who set South Africa on the path toward healing after the horror of apartheid, who advocated peace and healing, reconciliation rather than revenge. He will be sorely missed."

Mandela led the fight to end the system of apartheid in South Africa, then went on to lead the country, always articulating a message of forgiveness and reconciliation.  In 1993, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for peacefully helping to end apartheid and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.

In Washington, D.C., an emotional President Barack Obama called Mandela one of the "most influential, courageous and profoundly good" people to ever have lived. "He achieved more than could be expected of any man. He belongs to the ages."

Dr. Virgilette Nzingha Gaffin, Cheyney Associate Professor of African American Studies took time to remember the revered statesman.  "Nelson Mandela was a gracious leader, a noble agent for change, and an enduring and endearing spokesman for human dignity," she shared.  "I hope his words and actions will remain in our hearts as a road map to courage, dignity and peace."  

Senior Liberal Studies major Oscar Gamble recalls Mandela saying that "education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world".  He vividly remembers seeing Mandela emerge from prison in February of 1990 and feeling inspired.  "He's one of the reasons I decided to go back to school and continue my education," the 41-year-old explained. "People often focus on what he did for the South Africans but, really, he's a global figure and a world-wide example for those interested in social justice."

"Sometimes we are fortunate enough to witness, and to learn from, the few among us whose life's journeys leave us both grateful and inspired," reflected Dr. Michelle Howard-Vital, President of Cheyney.  "Nelson Mandela was one of these special humans whose courage and ideals built a new world for us all." 

While Mandela had been sick in bed for months, Senior Communications major Nikaya Johnson was shocked by his death because, just recently, she'd heard on the news that he was doing better. "I think people will remember him as a fighter who was dedicated to his country. They will remember his strength and his legacy," she surmised.

Desmond Tutu, one of Mandela’s oldest friends and also a Nobel Peace Prize laureate told South Africans that they lost their moral father. "The sun will rise tomorrow and the next day and the next," he said slowly, on the verge of tears. "It may not appear as bright as yesterday but life will carry on."