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Lawrence and Douglas County

Lawrence and Douglas county

Nelson Mandela’s impact was felt by many in KU community

December 5, 2013

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Nelson Mandela may never have visited Kansas, but his life had a profound impact on many people here, and his death has rekindled strong memories and passionate emotions.

“I have not heard, in my entire life, anyone say a negative comment about Mandela,” said Barbara Ballard, associate director for outreach at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University. “I wonder who today would give 27 years of imprisonment, to sleep on a cold concrete floor because of their beliefs of injustice.”

Dole Institute director Bill Lacy, left, laughs as Luvuyo Mandela, the great-grandson of former South African president Nelson Mandela, shares a story while speaking Oct. 27 at the Dole Institute of Politics. Mandela was accepting 2013 Dole Leadership Prize on behalf of his great-grandfather.

Dole Institute director Bill Lacy, left, laughs as Luvuyo Mandela, the great-grandson of former South African president Nelson Mandela, shares a story while speaking Oct. 27 at the Dole Institute of Politics. Mandela was accepting 2013 Dole Leadership Prize on behalf of his great-grandfather.

Mandela died Thursday after a long illness. He was 95.

Gov. Sam Brownback issued a statement Thursday praising Mandela as “a great man who stood up for his principles and human rights.”

“He was an inspiration to many, including myself,” Brownback said. “My thoughts and prayers go to his family.”

In October, the Dole Institute awarded Mandela the 2013 Dole Leadership Prize, recognizing his decades-long struggle to end racial segregation in his native South Africa, and his later efforts as president to unify the country.

His great-grandson, Luvuyo Mandela, accepted the prize on his behalf.

A militant leader of the once-outlawed African National Congress, Mandela was convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government in 1962 and was sentenced to life in prison. He served 27 years, much of it at the infamous Robben Island prison, until his release in 1989 when South Africa began dismantling its policy of racial segregation known as apartheid.

While he was in prison, though, Mandela grew in stature and became a symbol for democracy and civil rights movements around the world. He also inspired anti-apartheid sympathy movements on college campuses in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s as students demonstrated to urge their universities and endowment associations to divest from investments in South African companies.

Ron Kuby, seen here arguing a case in court, led anti-apartheid protests while he was a student at Kansas University in the late 1970s. He described Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday, as "probably the world's foremost, beloved elder statesman."

Ron Kuby, seen here arguing a case in court, led anti-apartheid protests while he was a student at Kansas University in the late 1970s. He described Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday, as "probably the world's foremost, beloved elder statesman."

“I cannot think of anyone who had greater moral authority than Nelson Mandela and was able to translate his moral authority into reality,” said Ron Kuby, a KU alumnus who organized anti-apartheid protests at KU in the late 1970s.

Kuby, who is now a criminal defense lawyer in New York, has remained active in civil rights causes since his days at KU, and for a while appeared frequently as a commentator on cable news networks.

Kuby remained passionately opposed to apartheid and the Endowment Association's investment policies long after leaving KU, and for many years even refused to join the KU Alumni Association.

“I always refused until Nelson Mandela was free, and South Africa set up the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions,” Kuby said. “I figured if Nelson Mandela can reconcile with the apartheid regime, I can join the KU Alumni Association. And I did — and sent them a check with a note to that effect.”

Malcolm Gibson, a retired KU journalism professor, remembers meeting Mandela in 1993 while touring southern Africa with a group from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. It was during that tour when Gibson met South African journalist Allister Sparks.

Retired Kansas University professor Malcolm Gibson stands with Nelson Mandela during a 1993 backyard barbecue in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Retired Kansas University professor Malcolm Gibson stands with Nelson Mandela during a 1993 backyard barbecue in Johannesburg, South Africa.

At Sparks' home, Gibson recalled, there was a knock at the door, and when the door opened, a man said, "Hello, I'm Nelson Mandela."

For three hours, Gibson said, he got to eat barbecue, drink beer and talk casually with Mandela. “He barely spoke above a whisper, which commanded attention," Gibson said.

Gibson, who also served as faculty adviser for the University Daily Kansan, said that meeting ranked as "one of the magic moments" of his life and compared it to his wedding and birth of his children.

“Those who followed South Africa always thought that it would explode, and it didn't because of Nelson Mandela," Gibson said.

Whitney Kleinmann, who graduated from KU in May, is too young to remember that era. But she does remember her family meeting Mandela during a chance encounter in 1994, less than a year after he was elected the nation's first post-apartheid president.

Late that year, her family went on a cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate her grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary. Kleinmann, who was 4 at the time, remembers the cruise stopping in Nassau, where people toured the zoo, and seeing a man dressed in a suit surrounded by bodyguards.

Whitney Kleinmann, seated on her father's shoulders at left, remembers her family meeting Nelson Mandela by chance during a cruise to the Bahamas in 1994, when she was 4. Kleinmann, who now lives in the Kansas City area, graduated from Kansas University in May.

Whitney Kleinmann, seated on her father's shoulders at left, remembers her family meeting Nelson Mandela by chance during a cruise to the Bahamas in 1994, when she was 4. Kleinmann, who now lives in the Kansas City area, graduated from Kansas University in May.

“We have all these pictures of kids swarming him,” Kleinmann said. “Even with all of his bodyguards, he was nice to everyone, shook everyone's hands, all that kind of stuff.”

Caitlin Doornbos contributed to this story.

Comments

Martin Brody 1 year ago

“I have not heard, in my entire life, anyone say a negative comment about Mandela,” said Barbara Ballard, associate director for outreach at the Dole Institute of Politics at Kansas University.

Seriously? Mandela ended-up doing good things in the end, but didn't his MK organization plant numerous bombs that killed innocent people?

Bob Smith 1 year ago

What ever happened to that sort of crazy woman he was married to? You know, the one who wanted to hang burning tires around the necks of people she disagreed with.

Clark Coan 1 year ago

He was an inspiration to those of us involved in KU Committee on South Africa who were working to get KU Endowment Assn. to divest (they never did, BTW). Several of us committed civil disobedience at their offices on west campus in 1985. The divestment campaign took off nationally and when Black congressmen committed civil disobedience at the South African embassy, things really started to change. Congress passed a sanctions bill which put the apartheid regime on the defensive and they decided to negotiate a peaceful transition.

Of course there was a broad-based movement in South Africa and Mandela was the primary leader but there were others such as Bishop Tutu.

Lawrence Morgan 1 year ago

Please see my blog in today's Journal World for a musical tribute to Nelson Mandela:

http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/kansas-150th-birthday-is-almost-over/2013/dec/6/nelson-mandela-a-tribute/

I hope that many people will see this blog and comment on it!

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