The spirit of Ubuntu: Understanding the meaning of Mandela Day

In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 18th “Nelson Mandela International Day,” a day of activism. In response to being bestowed this honor, Mr. Mandela said:

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“We are humbled by the decision of the United Nations to recognize 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day. It is our wish that the day be used not to honor an individual, but rather to remember the millions who have contributed to the struggle for freedom throughout the world. The best way to commemorate these struggles is for people everywhere to work with and within communities to make this a better world.

Let us remember that freedom from poverty, hunger and disease, that access to quality education, are as much human rights challenges as political oppression. May Nelson Mandela International Day contribute to those challenges being met.”

We at ONE continue to be inspired by the vision of Mr. Mandela, and as the world celebrates his 93rd birthday this week, we are reminded to continue to extend ourselves in working towards his dream and vision for a better life for all.

It begins with each one of us giving a little bit. While Mr Mandela devoted 67 years to social and political activism, he only asks for 67 minutes of your day to make a difference in someone else’s life, spreading ubuntu, selflessness and love. Ubuntu is an African philosophy centered on the oneness of humanity, thus encouraging respect for diversity, promoting dignity, peace, good health and prosperity. It is therefore not limited to one day. Indeed, this year’s theme encourages us to, “Take Action, Inspire Change, Make Every Day a Mandela Day.”

At ONE we strive everyday for these same ideals, that is why — encouraged by Mr. Mandela — we push for change, call upon world leaders to keep their promises, fight to end the spread of preventable disease and campaign to make poverty history. We also realize that we are not alone in this journey. There are many acts of kindness, selflessness and activism that are fighting the same causes.

We strive as much as possible to find, promote and grow these ordinary silent heroes be they individuals or organizations as they step up to the responsibility of making our world a better place for all humanity. Some of these we are already trying to encourage and reward in our own small way through efforts like the ONE Award. These ordinary citizens, through their work, social spaces and communities, collectively or individually continue to challenge themselves everyday to do their part to make the world a better place. And in the spirit of Ubuntu, we at ONE seek to work together with others in trying to build a better world.

In the words of Mr. Mandela, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

Happy Birthday and thank you Mr. Mandela!