I spent the morning of the 10th December 2013 listening to the celebration of Nelson Mandela's life. His family, friends and world leaders all praised his leadership and courage but, more importantly, invited the world to continue the fight for justice, tolerance and equality.
I can recall several Mandela moments over the years during which I have been inspired to work in my own small way to improve the lot of people across the world. I guess I would have to say that Rotary has been a key vehicle to allow me to realise this work. By focusing on Peace and World Understanding, Rotarians are following the ideals that Madiba encouraged in all of us.
As President Obama noted in his speech on the 10th December, "For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe – Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask: how well have I applied his lessons in my own life?"
So what small legacy can each of us leave in remembrance of Mandela? Our actions in relation to any of our 6 Areas of Focus will help influence the struggles for justice and peace. Our giving to our Rotary Foundation will help future generations of Rotarians in their work.
More specifically we have our Rotary Peace Centers and the scholarships for present day activists. This programme continues to support the many struggles across the world and provides a growing network of individuals who are "Doing Good in the World" and Rotarians who better understand many of the issues they are trying to tackle.
Our work on the eradication of Polio not only enables us to rid the world of only the second global disease in history, but ensures that every child on this globe has the opportunity to have some form of health care and attention. Mandela was keen to help us Kick Polio out of Africa, we have an obligation to finish the job everywhere.
We need many more "activists" both locally and internationally. I have come across many Rotarians who are doing their bit, quietly and without fuss in the past 6 months. How much more could we do if we encourage more people in our communities to Engage with Rotary? How many more Lives can we Change?
President Obama went on to say that "We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard."
None of our world leaders are perfect and it is all too easy to be cynical about their words but it is true that we all, as citizens of the world, have a part to play.
How will you make your voice heard? We can start locally by embracing diversity and change in our own Clubs; By encouraging the use of the ethical values embodied in our 4-Way Test; And by continuing our humanitarian work, wherever it is needed.