Boston recently gathered to celebrate the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. The event featured tributes to Mr. Mandela by legislative, civic and private sector leaders. Among the featured speakers was Massachusetts Governor, Deval L. Patrick, who reflected on Mr. Mandela's focus on the power of love to overcome divisions, "Today we celebrate an ambassador of peace, reconciliation and brotherly love. Nelson Mandela was a remarkable and inspiring example of resilience, persistence, determination and grace, in his time and for all time."
The event was co-sponsored by South Africa Partners and Northeastern University's College of Social Sciences and Humanities and the School of Law. They were joined by presenting partners Old South Church and City Year Boston. Musical performances were provided by the Boston Children's Chorus. Mary Tiseo of South Africa Partners served as the event's emcee.
Representative Byron Rushing, an active member of the anti-apartheid movement who oversaw the implementation of Massachusetts legislation that instituted sanctions against companies doing business in South Africa, recalled the contributions made by the state. When Mr. Mandela appeared before a crowd of more than 250,000 at the Esplanade in June of 1990, he said, "When one day our history is rewritten, the pioneering and little role of Massachusetts will stand out like a shining diamond. It was you who supported us when very few knew of our existence, our trial and tribulations. It was you who rallied around our cause at a time when we thought that we were all by ourselves and thus you became the conscience of American society. A treasured beacon, within and beyond the boundaries of this great nation. For all this, we are very grateful to you, the people of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and indeed the entire New England area."
The tribute, attended by more than 500, included videos of Mr. Mandela's release from prison on February 11, 1990, as well as his visit to Boston just four months later. The remarkable outpouring of support during that June 1990 visit remains an important milestone and forever links Boston, one of only 8 cities to be visited on that trip, to South Africa's struggle for liberation and social justice.
Professor Margaret Burnham, of Northeastern School of Law and a co-founder of South Africa Partners said, like Mandela, "We must realize that none of us is free so long as many of us are without adequate education, without adequate healthcare, without personal safety, without food, without a reliable and inclusive democracy...let us honor the Mandela within us by working to make the world a better place."
The faith community of Boston was represented by Reverend Nancy Taylor, Senior Minister & CEO, Old South Church in Boston. "Imagine: from a prison cell set on an island, Nelson Mandela radiated enough strength, courage and hope to embrace the whole world and make us family. That is something to wonder at, celebrate, and for which to give thanks."
Tendai Musikavanhu, CEO, Old Mutual Global Index Trackers, who grew up hearing stories of Nelson Mandela and other heroes of the liberation movement in South Africa said, "In an era where leaders are being seen as predominantly self-serving, Mandela proved that there can still be leaders who are truly self-sacrificing."
The program ended with a tribute from Lenna Assaf from City Year Boston. As a student studying in South Africa, Lenna learned about Nelson Mandela and his example of leadership on behalf of others. "I serve with City Year to carry on Mandela's legacy, to live his ideas, and contribute to making this world a better place for all its citizens."