Today is the birthday of Rolihlahla “Nelson” Mandela (books by this author), born in Mvezo, South Africa (1918). He was the first member of his family to attend school, and that’s where his British teachers gave him a new name: Nelson. Since childhood, Mandela had heard stories of his ancestors’ courage. When he was 16 and participating in a ritual circumcision ceremony, the speaker lamented the life of oppression Mandela and the other boys would face under the rule of white South Africans. Mandela didn’t understand everything that was said, but he later said that the experience formed his resolve to work for an end to apartheid.
He spent 27 years in prison, but refused to carry a grudge against his captors. He later said of his release from prison, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
He also said: “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.”