On meeting Nelson Mandela, by Kim Smith

I met Nelson Mandela in 2008. I was kim_mandela1awarded the Mandela Rhodes Scholarship and part of the scholarship entailed meeting our patron. What an honour it was to meet this superhuman! It was one of my childhood dreams to meet Nelson Mandela and there I sat in the same room as him, waiting for my turn to have my moment with him. When I met this superhuman, he looked as human as any other human I’d seen before. The superhuman could joke with us. The superhuman told us stories: meaningless anecdotes, but also valuable, bite-size lessons in some of his experiences. He never had the opportunities to education as we do today he would say, and so he encouraged us to take all the opportunities at our disposal. And when I placed my hand into the superhuman’s, I could not think of anything to say…so I just thanked him for the opportunity to further my studies.

That moment passed so quickly and I often think about what I could have rather said in those few precious moments but what that moment meant to me has had a profound, long lasting impact on my life. How could it not? In applying for the scholarship, scholars pledge to aspire to be ethical servant leaders, to advance human rights and human dignity, to work hard, to use our education and skills to build our local and global communities and to practice the values enshrined by Tata Madiba.

kim_mandela2Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon that you can use to change the world”. Nelson Mandela also once said: “Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair…” This is not something he said in a calculated instance of sophistry. This is something he truly lived and truly believed. What he said holds truth and this is what drives me.

The Access Water expedition encapsulates exactly this. The expedition harnesses the combining power of education and sport to drive change. I think of the expedition as my way of living up to the pledge I took almost six years ago. The scholarship equips young people with tools needed to address the challenges of the world, but also inspires us to go out and actually change the world. Having had the privilege to meet Tata Madiba, having had the privilege of being a Mandela Rhodes Scholar and having the privilege of being part of the expedition team, I have a profound appreciation for and sense of responsibility to effect change in my global environment.


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