Nelson Mandela died yesterday, Dec. 5, 2013. A man whose name became synonymous for peace and freedom, Mandela embodied a man we should all aspire to be like. Today I taught Philip about apartheid and Nelson Mandela’s role in ending the system of forced segregation and reconciling South Africa as the nation’s first black president.
After our lesson I asked Philip to name three facts about Nelson Mandela. He responded on his letterboard: 1) He was imprisoned for starting a movement against apartheid, 2) He was a president, 3) He raised awareness about AIDS.
Philip wrote this tribute: “Nelson Mandela I admire you for your courage. You gave people freedom from apartheid. Please be remembered always.”
At bedtime, Philip spelled he was thankful for Nelson Mandela.
After I finished putting Philip to bed, I decided to continue to learn about Mandela. I came across some of his most inspirational quotes. Many of them bolster the hopes I have for Philip. I will share them with him so that he may be encouraged too.
1) “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
This is so true. I cannot imagine how Mandela must have felt being in prison for a life sentence, 27 years served. There must have been moments when he thought all hope was lost for his life and for the equality of those he went to prison advocating for. What I have learned this past year in my own life is that I must never give up on a dream. There was a time when I nearly stopped believing a decent life would be possible for Philip. I am so glad I never completely gave up! I can check off communication as an “impossible” goal that has been reached. I now have other things on a list that still seems like a monumental climb, but I believe can be achieved: attending mainstream school, making a close friend, finding a hobby, earning a living.
2) “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
When Philip and I did our lessons on slavery, it was a theme that slaves were not allowed an education and were punished if they were discovered engaging in such a subversive activity as learning to read. Those who did become educated, such as Frederick Douglass, were not only able to change their own lives, but also affect a change in society. In the same way, Philip’s education will be a cornerstone for changing his life for the better. His education has the potential to open the doors for others who cannot speak to communicate but are intelligent and misunderstood. The current accepted system of education for non-speaking autistics is insufficient and needs to change. Philip is among a growing group of non-speaking autistics like Tito, Ido, Naoki, Carly, and many others who are communicating effectively in alternative ways and proving to others they can learn just as any other person their age.
There are so many other pearls of wisdom from Mandela that need no explanation, but resonate so deeply in our experiences.
3) “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
4) “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
5) “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
6) “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”
7) “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”
8) “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”
9) “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
10) “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”
11) “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
12) “When people are determined they can overcome anything.”