On the Banks of the River Mbashe

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Autumn Rose

 

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” 
 Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom

The Mbashe flows in a south-eastern direction from its source, Drakensberg, NE of Elliot, Eastern Cape of South Africa through an estuary by the lighthouse at Bashee, to its mouth, the Indian Ocean.   With a basin area of 6,030 km², its tributaries are the Xuka, Mgwali, Dutywa and the Mnyolo rivers.  On the banks of the Mbashe, the small village of Mvezo recorded the birth of a boy on July 18, 1918.  He was named Rolihlahla Mandela.    In the Xhosa language, Rolihlahla means “pulling the branch of a tree,” or “troublemaker.” Whether or not this was a foreshadowing of what his destiny would be, Nelson Mandela changed the way the world fought against social injustice. Facing insurmountable odds, he walked the long and difficult road to freedom – not only for his people, but for all who yearn for peaceful and fair-minded solutions.

“There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires” 
 Nelson Mandela

Today, twenty-two kilometres away from his birthplace, Nelson Mandela came home to Qunu, the place he grew up and remembered as his happiest moments.  Nelson Mandela once said, “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” 

Nelson Mandela has been laid to rest.  Even so, his voice, like the River Mbashe, continues to flow and nourish. We will carry on with his work, inspired by his life and vision.

Tread softly,
Brathe peacefully,
Laugh hysterically.”

Nelson Mandela (July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013)

The Outcome is Action

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“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.”
Aristotle

Simon Fraser University - Bear Mother by Bill Reid

Simon Fraser University – Bear Mother by Bill Reid

The other day I visited Simon Fraser University, advantageously situated to overlook the mountains that stand guard over the Lower Mainland of British Columbia.  I felt the energy of learning the minute I stepped through the doors and saw students with books and laptops studying in solo, duet, and trio formations. It was exam week; tensions were high, the atmosphere filled with enough brain activity to power the campus streetlights for the coming week.  Somewhere between the pages of a text and the long hours of study resides the hope that education will provide a way to participate within the world.

Participating is contributing. When Hipparchus was inspired to compile a catalogue of the 850 or so stars whose positions were then known, he was contributing to collective wisdom.  As was Claudius Ptolemy when he wrote Almagest!  As was Arete when she wrote forty books and taught one hundred and ten philosophers over the course of her life.

The nature of education, regardless of varying methodologies, has not changed over the centuries.  It is humanity’s way of transferring knowledge and wisdom from one generation to the next, much like a relay race without end. Great thinkers know that the outcome of education is action. Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Learning takes on many appearances; it shifts our thinking, challenges our beliefs and fills us with passion to seek better outcomes for ourselves, our families and our communities, local and global.

“When you know better you do better.” 
Maya Angelou

The Man in the Arena

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The Olympics

A dialogue on courage would be incomplete without Teddy Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena.”  On April 23, 1910, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech entitled, “Citizenship in a Republic,” at the Sorbonne, Paris. Thirty-five pages long, the unforgettable passage is found on the seventh page.

Many years later, Nelson Mandela gave a copy of this speech to François Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team, before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup. (As a point of interest, in the film based on those events, the poem Invictus is used instead.)

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Teddy Roosevelt

26Th President of the United States

Without Fear

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Courage

Courage is being scared to death…and saddling up anyway.”

John Wayne

Without fear, courage is meaningless. When we or, someone we love, is in danger or in pain, when our way of life is threatened, or when we experience loss and suffering, that is the moment everything changes.  There is an immediate awareness that the only option before us is courage.

Fear is part of our human experience.  At some point we will all feel the wrenching emotion; avoidance is not an option. Mark Twain once said, “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  This was echoed by Nelson Mandela.  “I have learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

We build our lives with protective mechanisms to circumvent danger and tragedy. We search for security in a world of uncertainty.  Perhaps, we do not recognize the generous amounts of courage that resides deep within our souls.

Security is mostly a superstition.  It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it.  Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure.  Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Helen Keller

 

Peace with our Enemy

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Partners

  • Apartheid – the repugnant policy or system of segregation or discrimination based on racial standards
  • Nelson Mandela (Madiba – his Xhosa clan name) – the anti-apartheid activist, the leader and co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC)

Nelson Mandela was charismatic, handsome, a brilliant communicator, and a serious activist. He was at his peak when he was handed a prison sentence – intellectual courage fused with physical strength, a dynamic and deadly combination. Elegantly dressed in the most expensive suits, he was the quintessential revolutionary ready to accept any risk in pursuit of his dream: an Africa which is in peace with itself.” Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison.  He never lost courage.  Instead, he found a way to achieve peace.

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy.  Then he becomes your partner.”

Nelson Mandela (Madiba)

The Legacy

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Education’s legacy is hope…

freedom…

and the power to change the world.

May we bequeath this inheritance to our children…

 

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”

Victor Hugo

“Education is the key to unlock the golden door of freedom.”

George Washington Carver

“Education is the most power weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Nelson Mandela

“Education is the transmission of civilization.”

Will Durant