A true humanitarian

Stanley Oliver
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Like many people throughout the entire world, I was deeply saddened to hear that the great Nelson Mandela had died on Dec. 5 at the age of 95. He died in his Johannesburg home after a long illness. According to all reports he died peacefully surrounded by a large circle of friends and family.

I have found it hard to tear myself away from the television as again, like many, I am moved by this man and have found it wonderfully intriguing to learn of the many accomplishments of his life and legacy. It makes one thankful to be able to live in a country like Canada and our Labrador. He devoted his entire life to fighting in a peaceful way (which is rare — but he was able to do it) and exemplified a deep spirituality and forgiveness like no other or very few that the world has ever encountered. Growing up in Labrador we were always taught to not only have a respect for the land but also a respect for our elders and seniors. Thus, I am compelled to write on why I think there is a broad appeal for such an inspiring man.

Whether you respect Nelson Mandela (aka Mandiba which he is often referred to as, meaning  “the Father of the Nation”) as politician, revolutionist or philanthropist, I am sure you will agree with that this man was a true humanitarian — a statesman to the world.

Mandiba was born to the Thembu Royal family and attended several universities where he studied and received a law degree. Shortly after receiving his law degree, he became involved in the African National Congress (ANC) — an anti-colonial political movement. As a lawyer he was repeatedly arrested for what was considered rebellion activities or in the Apartheid Government’s view, a movement of sabotage campaign against the sitting government. However, in Madela’s eyes, it was rather a movement of non-violent protest. In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of conspiracy to overthrow the government and sentenced to life in prison, where he served the next 27 years of his life. The entire time he was imprisoned he continued his efforts for peace and worked tirelessly for social democracy.

In 1990, he was finally released after an international campaign by literally thousands of groups from around the world who had similar beliefs. Just three short years later he became South Africa’s first black president. Always the consummate seeker of peace, he formed the Government of National Unity, ever advocating and promoting the reduction and elimination of racial tensions. While in office as president (1994-1999) of the African National Congress, his administration introduced new government policies to encourage land reform, combat poverty, expand health care services and mediate conflicts between countries. In 1999, he decided not to reoffer for a second term and devoted the rest of his working life to charitable causes with a focus on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS. He truly became an “Elder Statesman.” He has been admired by the everyday person as well as world leaders. He has received over 250 honours, including the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, the US Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Order of Canada. Mandela was married three times and was the father of six children and the grandfather of 17 grandchildren.

The legacy of this great man can never be truly measured and will never be forgotten. As the founding “Father of Democracy” or the Father of the Nation(s), we should all take a page from his life and think about where we live. In my humble opinion and view, this land and this country we call home may have some faults, and may not always give us exactly what we want, but democratically speaking, it’s one of the best in the world.

Nelson Madela will always be remembered, along with other great individuals of note —Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King and Ghandi, just to name a few.

I am proud to say that I lived in a time to observe, listen and admire his work and see the results. It instils the belief that one person can make a difference.


Stanley Oliver is a long-time resident of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, a proud Labradorian and a proud Canadian. He can be reached via email at stanoliver1965@gmail.com.

Organizations: African National Congress, Thembu Royal family

Geographic location: Canada, Labrador, Johannesburg South Africa Happy Valley Goose Bay

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