Happy 95th Mandela

NelsonMandelaHappyBirthday_2 Today, July 18th, 2013, marks Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and the 5th annual Nelson Mandela International Day. Unanimously adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2009, this day is a call to action to people across the globe to contribute to the global movement for good by effecting change within their communities. The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory put together this short video to encourage the international community to take part in the day.

Mandela DayClick image to play

Although his health has been fragile, Mandela remains resilient as ever, and this reminds us that his fight for change is something we can all attempt to emulate in our own lives. Madiba has been and always will be an inspiration to people across the globe, especially here at Firelight.

            Everyone involved with Firelight is passionate about social change; everyday we strive to better the lives of others. From staff to donors to grantee-partners and on, everyone feels the spirit of Mandela’s service in their lives and continues to be inspired by his limitless generosity and selflessness. These same values are found in Firelight’s community, and to honor another year of Mandela’s life of service, personal reflections on his importance seem most appropriate. So we asked our community to tell us what they think and here's some of what we heard.

“Nelson Mandela set a high bar and expressed an example of what one man can accomplish with a heart of love. Although born into a royal family and well educated, he could have easily led a selfish life of comfort and leisure but instead chose to confront wrongs for which he paid a dramatic price in personal freedom and health. It appears that his willingness to forgive opened doors for him to go on as a respected elder statesman, working to combat poverty and HIV/AIDS. May his example inspire many to express the great love that we are all affected by.”

–Pat Bujold, Donor

“I attended University of Wisconsin-Madison in the 1980's, during the waning days of apartheid.  The struggle of Nelson Mandela and the ANC as Botha tried to maintain his power as it slowly slipped away was an inspiration to us, and one which we would all follow very closely…we were full of hope to watch this new nation re-birth.  I remember where I was a few years later, when Mandela was released—bowling at the Surf Bowl in Santa Cruz—people began cheering up and down the street, it was incredibly moving.  We were all inspired by his struggle, his strength, and his magnanimity, one which has served as a model for so many over the years, and surely has cast a most unique and enduring legacy.”

–Chris Arisian, Donor

“When I think of Nelson Mandela, I think of a life well lived. A man who transformed history with his words, his vision, and his journey.  A courageous leader in the social struggle against the injustice of apartheid, he helped to tear down the walls of oppression.  And in the aftermath of this momentous turning point, he led with wisdom in building the bridges of peace and reconciliation.  I think of the way his spirit remained unbroken–and how his vision for change grew even stronger–during his twenty-seven years of imprisonment.  He is one of the heroes in our lifetimes whose legacy will continue to inspire.”

–Kerry Olson, Founder and President Emeritus

As we celebrate Mandela’s 95th birthday, let us also celebrate the longevity of his inspirational legacy that will forever be an impetus for social change. At the Firelight Foundation, we continue to work toward bettering the lives of others with Mandela in mind. Thank you for your inspiration, and happy birthday, Madiba!

Today, we encourage you to join people around the world in participating in an activity that contributes to social change for 67 minutes to honor the 67 years that Mandela dedicated to fighting for human rights. Remember that each and every one of us can instigate change, no matter how small or large the contribution. In Mandela’s own words, “We can change the world and make it a better place. It is in your hands to make a difference.”

What do you plan to do for Nelson Mandela International Day?

a paper that says happy 95th birthday with writing all around it displayed on a green wall


Hannah Thiemann wrote this blog. She’s a volunteer at Firelight who is a junior at Stanford University. She’s from St. Louis, MO and pursuing a life of writing, philanthropy, and adventure.