Correction: In a previous version of this post, it was incorrectly stated that Matthew Barney is a resource academic adviser for the Hispanic organization El Centro. Barney is actually a resource academic mentor and El Centro is a Latino/a organization at CSU. The Collegian regrets its error.
Thursday, at age 95, anti-apartheid activist and former South African President Nelson Mandela died, evoking a reaction from leaders around the world, as well as many people on CSU’s own campus.
“I think it would be hard to explain (his impact) in a few sentences,” said Klara Rossouw, a CSU graduate student who lived in South Africa during Mandela’s presidency. “He was just a symbol to our country — a symbol of freedom. He just represented everything our country is and what it still needs to become.”
Mandela was well-known for helping South Africa transition peacefully away from the country’s racial conflict, and into a new era of social change. Ray Black, a CSU professor of African literature and history, recognized Mandela’s methods of social change as uniquely revolutionary.
“He’s the end –– one of the last major figures from the time when you had to do difficult things to spread the word,” Black said. “(He was) one of the few major figures to die from old age.”
Having grown up in South Africa, Rossouw described Mandela as universally well-liked.
“People loved him. It didn’t matter who you were, where you were from or what your background was,” Rossouw said. “There was just something about him that everyone loved.”
The wide-reaching impact of Mandela’s death has spread across the internet, from President Obama tweeting, “Let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived,” to facebook posts and coverage in news outlets worldwide.
“It’s everywhere. It’s everywhere on Twitter and Tumblr — that’s how I found out,” said Emana Lukac, junior communications and theatre major. “It’s really sad though.”
CSU President Tony Frank acknowledged Mandela’s impact as a great leader on not only South African society, but on society as a whole.
“The Colorado State community joins the world in mourning for Nelson Mandela and honoring his extraordinary lifetime of leadership in the fight for human rights and the dignity of all people,” Frank wrote in a statement to the Collegian. “He was a great hero and a great man, and we all are better for his example.”
Mandela was famous for his unwillingness to abandon his ideals as a leader, illustrating the importance of strong values and education to help people achieve and understand those values.
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela represents peace, love, change and was an inspiration for the value in education,” said ASCSU President Nigel Daniels. “He was an icon leader of our generation and will be greatly missed by everyone.”
After years of militant resistance against the South African government and apartheid, Mandela was imprisoned in 1964. He was released in 1990, emerging even more well-known for his philosophy of peaceful activism combined with revolutionary ideas.
In a speech at his 1964 trial, Mandela declared, “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
However, Mandela is much more well-known for the work that he did after his 27 years in prison when he lead South Africa out of apartheid and became known worldwide as an inspirational leader.
“I suppose we all have to die someday, but I’m sure his legacy will live on for a long time. He set a lot of things in motion for South Africa and the whole world,” said Matthew Barney, resource academic mentor for the on-campus organization El Centro.
Collegian Reporter Ellie Mulder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Collegian Green Beat Reporter Laren Cyphers contributed to this article.