Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter visited Dixie State University Thursday evening to speak about the importance of finding your own path and closing community divides by building bridges.
Swati Mandela’s visit to DSU was planned in commemoration of Black History Month by the Multicultural and Inclusion Center and the Office of the President. Granddaughter to activists Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Swati Mandela emphasized the importance of creating one’s own legacy by building on the foundation left by those who came before us.
Swati Mandela’s grandfather, Nelson Mandela, was a global advocate for human rights, as well as a past president of South Africa, and her grandmother, Winnie Mandela, was the leader of the African National Congress Women’s League.
Her grandparents left a large legacy behind, but Swati Mandela said the important thing for her to do is make her own path by building her own legacy on the bedrock of her grandparents.
Swati Mandela said: “My grandfather when he retired said, ‘I’m handing it over to you—the young people of my country, the young people of the world. We have taken things as far as we can. Now it is up to you to move things forward.’”
Swati Mandela’s desire for change and leaving behind a legacy is through her focus on communities. She spoke on her desire to close existing gaps among the youth and older generations, equal opportunities for education to create good leaders, as well as women’s rights.
Swati Mandela said the older generation needs to help nurture the youth and offer them encouragement because knowledge still remains the most important foundation upon which to build the future. Younger generations need to open themselves to learn from the core values of the older generation because they can learn so much from other people.
“Education is an important tool to change the world,” she said. “We create the world in which we want to live.”
Although much has been done to bridge the divides in her country and around the world, Swati Mandela worries complacency and a lack of good examples in leadership could lead to forgetting the problems of the past. She focused on the need to create spaces for good leadership to be seen because the world is in need of good leaders. She said her visit with the student leaders in the MIC and their attitudes gave her hope for the future.
Daneka Souberbielle, director of the MIC, said the center invited Swati Mandela to speak at DSU because many people are nervous about the changes that are happening politically.
“We really wanted to give our students and our community a chance to really think about what long-term leadership and positive leadership looks like,” Souberbielle said.
Oscar Bastida, a freshman exercise science major from Catalina Island, California, said he came to the event to learn more about leadership and guidance to finding the right path. He said Swati Mandela’s speech motivated him to have a positive impact on the lives of others.
“I want to try to change myself for the better and continue to live on that path,” Bastida said.
The world has a need for improvement and the death of her grandfather is unfortunate, Swati Mandela said.
“I think there was still so much we could have learned from him,” she said. “But we take from what he built, and we move forward.”
Women’s rights are another divide that Swati Mandela addressed. Women play an important role in history, but their stories are often left untold or undocumented, she said. In order to change this, Swati Mandela co-authored the autobiography “491 Days” about her grandmother’s role in aiding the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Swati Mandela said despite the end of apartheid, her grandmother didn’t give up in her activism to fight for those left on the wrong side of opportunity and for those facing hardship.
“She has continued today to advocate for our people and for the rights of women everywhere to be treated with dignity and respect,” she said.
In the end, Swati Mandela reminded the audience that everyone can make a difference even through small actions. She said each generation must look to the examples of those that came before them to learn and draw courage from.
“We all have the power within ourselves to overcome the limitations of our circumstances and imagine a better life for all,” Swati Mandela said. “Not just for you. Not just for me. But for everyone.”