Statement by Michael Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of City Year on the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela
“All of us at City Year join with our South African colleagues and indeed, the entire world, to mourn the loss — and celebrate the life — of Nelson Mandela.
When I first heard the news, like many others, I shed tears of sadness at his loss and tears of gratitude for his life.
Nelson Mandela’s profound moral courage, unyielding commitment to a free and democratic South Africa, and remarkable personal grace changed his country and the world.
Remarkably, after 27 years of being imprisoned for his democratic ideals, he traveled the path from prisoner to president without bitterness or anger, even inviting his jailers to his inauguration.
Nelson Mandela had a profound impact on City Year. In 2001, he invited President Clinton to speak in South Africa about building a civil society. President Clinton invited City Year’s leadership and representatives of our AmeriCorps members to join him. We had the enormous privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela and he encouraged and inspired the founding of City Year South Africa, our first international site, now in its eighth year.
Our South African colleagues have shared with us the concept of “Ubuntu” – the spiritual understanding that the humanity of each of us is tied to the humanity of all of us, and therefore we must treat each other with great acts of human kindness and deep empathy. Nelson Mandela was the embodiment of the spirit of Ubuntu.
“Education,” Nelson Mandela has said, “is the greatest weapon you can use to change the world.” City Year’s motto is “give a year, change the world” and we give that year in the highest-need public schools in the US, in the United Kingdom and in South Africa. Today, we re-dedicate ourselves to that work in Nelson Mandela’s memory, and continue to try to emulate his humility, commitment to social justice, and his unflagging dedication to a cause greater than self.
Nelson Mandela’s life was a gift from South Africa to the world. The inspiration of his words and deeds is immortal, and his legacy is in our hands.” – Michael Brown, CEO and Co-Founder of City Year