Minnesotans reflect on Nelson Mandela's legacy

5:55 PM, Dec 6, 2013   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS - One day after the death of former South African President Nelson Mandela, Minnesotans continue to reflect on the legacy of a man hailed as a hero throughout the world.

"[He was] a motivating, inspiring role model and continues to be and he will be for the age," said Dr. Ahmed Samatar, the James Wallace Professor of International Studies at Macalester College.

Samatar, himself a candidate in the 2012 Somali presidential election, said Mandela succeeded in creating a Democratic "powerhouse" in South Africa while also destroying an era of institutional racism.

"He's as large as Gandhi. Maybe bigger than Gandhi in the sense that Gandhi never went through the hell that Nelson Mandela went through," he said. "He knew that his capacities and the circumstances would limit him, and that many heavy boulders could not be lifted at the same time."

Meantime, a Minnesota-based organization also continues to find meaning in one of Nelson Mandela's most fundamental beliefs.

"One of his many famous quotes is that education is a great equalizer. It allows people to rise above their circumstances. Education is the most powerful weapon to change the world," said Pat Plonski with Books for Africa.

For 25 years, Books for Africa has donated school and library books to the African continent. With 29 million books donated to 49 different countries, the organization has grown into the largest shipper of donated educational materials to that continent.

South Africa alone has received at least a million books from the St. Paul-based organization, with plans for expanding that outreach through several ongoing projects.

Plonski said the hope is that what is done in Minnesota may help nurture the next Nelson Mandela.

"My belief is that the next Nelson Mandela, for some of these other countries, are reading the books that we send from Minnesota. And I believe in the power of education. And who knows - 30, 40, 50 years from now, we may be talking about some other great leader who was educated and is quite probably -- or will be reading the books that we sent," Plonski said.

(Copyright 2013 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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