As the tributes and celebrations for Nelson Mandela occur this week, I have become a bit reflective. What would I teach my daughter one day about Nelson Mandela and his life?
1. Colour does not matter
My daughter has a colourful family background with origins from India, Burma, England and Scotland. We live in a multi-cultural society yet I still see in the papers and on the streets unrest and racism. I want my daughter to stand up for herself (and most importantly for other people) and know that colour makes no difference to a person and their achievements.
2. One person can really change the world
What Mandela achieved and how he is being revered shows how much his actions influenced and changed a world. I want to share with my daughter that sometimes we may think things are “too big” for us to challenge, define, undertake but Mandela shows you can make a difference, you can make change and stand up for what you believe in.
3. Share your charity and kindness with everyone
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” — Nelson Mandela.
Respect, concern, compassion a belief in the best of our natures as human beings was central to the way Mandela approached every problem. He had a sense of charity to everyone. On the TV last week I saw he not only helped in gaol his fellow coloured men read but his heart was so big he also taught his illiterate white gaolers to read as well. He did not harbour grudges about past injustices or wrongs, but was concerned only to find a way forward, how to build a better South Africa. I want my daughter to be positive in all her interactions and ensure the way you treat others, hopefully they will treat you with the share respect and kindness in return.
4. You can overcome anything, achieve anything (but it often doesn’t come easily)
After 27 years in goal most people would just slink back into society never to be heard of again. The greatness of Mandela was his burning desire to make change was so strong that even being jailed for nearly a third of his life would not stop him. I want to teach my daughter to follow your passions – but most importantly know that it doesn’t come easily and on a plate. You can’t expect others to make you a success or pay your way. As Mandela said “Education is your most powerful weapon” and I want her to know the importance of a good education but I also want her to know that she also will need to work hard, be patient, listen to others and often sacrifice will be involved to get where you want to be.
5. Don’t let anything stop you because you are a women
In his celebrated autobiography Long Walk to Freedom “Mandela acknowledged men weren’t alone in the anti-apartheid movement and democracy and gender equality went hand in hand.” Today, females make up 44% of the South African politicians – not far off from the government’s goal to reach “50/50 Gender Parity” by 2015. What an amazing role model. However in Australia we still have such a long way to go to ensure women are represented to this level in our own government and on our company boards. I hope my daughter will never hear phrases in her lifetime like “glass ceiling”, ensure she is paid fairly and equally and be a great role model for other women and help them in their careers and lives to be better people.
6. Family is the most important thing
Mandela achieved a lot in his lifetime but one thing that always strikes me is … what about his children? his family? We talk about sacrifices but I hope in my daughter’s lifetime she can enjoy our family and one day her own and never feel she has to make a choice between her passions, her career and her personal life. I hope she grows up to know that what you leave in this world is just as much about the big things as the small things and the love of the family and those around you is the greatest gift of all.