Communicator of the Month: Nelson Mandela

Our Communicator of the Month series showcases individuals whose voices have made a lasting impact on our country. In 2023, we recognize 12 Proponents of Peace who were dedicated to resolving conflict and envisioned a world without violence. Whether they advocated for civil education classes or found the common link between the civil rights and peace movements, the efforts of these activists mitigated hostile conditions in many of the world’s most divided countries — including our own. Their cooperative processes led to negotiation, reconciliation and growth — and are still teaching us how to connect back to our shared humanity, even in times of strife.

“It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” — Nelson Mandela

July 18, 1918—December 5, 2013

Nelson Mandela, a name that echoes through the corridors of history, is revered as one of the greatest peace activists of our time. Born in South Africa, Mandela’s remarkable efforts and tireless pursuit of peace transformed the country and left an indelible mark on the world.

Mandela’s journey as a peace activist began in the face of immense adversity. Apartheid, a system of racial segregation and discrimination, had plagued South Africa for decades. Mandela, along with countless others, stood up against this unjust regime and dedicated his life to dismantling it. He believed that every individual, regardless of their race or background, deserved equal rights and opportunities.

A believer in nonviolent resistance, Mandela became a member of the African National Congress (ANC) and urged his fellow activists to embrace peaceful means in their struggle for freedom. In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment for his anti-apartheid activities. His imprisonment lasted 27 years, during which he became a symbol of resilience and unwavering determination. Even behind bars, Mandela continued to promote peace, inspiring his fellow prisoners and gaining support from around the world.

Finally, in 1990, the South African government released Mandela from prison. He immediately boosted his efforts, working tirelessly to bring an end to apartheid and to promote reconciliation between South Africans. By initiating negotiations with the apartheid government, Mandela’s actions led to the dismantling of the discriminatory system and the country’s first multiracial elections in 1994.

In that election, Mandela became the country’s first Black president. He continued to work toward peace and equality for all South Africans by establishing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The goal of the TRC was to emphasize the importance of acknowledging past wrongs and foster healing within a divided society by providing a platform for victims and perpetrators to share their experiences and seek forgiveness.

Mandela’s impact as a peace activist extends far beyond the borders of South Africa. His unwavering dedication to justice, forgiveness and inclusivity has inspired countless individuals and movements worldwide. Mandela’s leadership and vision have been recognized with numerous international accolades, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Mandela’s legacy serves as a reminder that peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but a state that requires compassion, understanding and the willingness to bridge divides. His life continues to inspire future generations to stand up for what is right and work toward a more peaceful world.