To Luvuyo Mandela, great-grandson of former South African President Nelson Mandela, the lasting legacy of the globally renowned revolutionary is one of public service.
"The values, such as humanity, humility, sincerity, goodness of spirit and also a readiness to serve others are more intimate and personal goals that are worth achieving and worth fighting for," Luvuyo Mandela said, in paraphrasing his great-grandfather, Sunday afternoon at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics, where he accepted the Dole Leadership Prize on behalf of Nelson Mandela.
"I think he, for this generation, would stand for a readiness to serve others, and the great part of it is our generation, we can do it without risking our lives," Luvuyo Mandela said.
About 100 people came to see Luvuyo Mandela accept the award, given to those whose public leadership inspires others, and to speak about his great-grandfather and South Africa. Nelson Mandela, who has also won a Nobel Peace Prize and U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, is the 10th recipient of the Dole Leadership Prize. Past winners include former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, former Senator George McGovern and former Mayor of New York City Rudi Giuliani.
Nelson Mandela was a vital figure in the demolishing of the racial segregation system in South Africa, called apartheid, and served as president from 1994 to 1999.
The award comes with a $25,000 prize, which will go toward the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory at the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which houses archived materials on his life and creates dialogue around social issues.
Luvuyo Mandela shared personal and historical stories about the former president, as well as what life is like in South Africa, past and present.
He described his great-grandfather's upbringing, how he studied the language Afrikaans over the course of his 27 years in prison to relate to guards, his reluctance to run for president and more.
"The message he tries to run home is that anyone can play their role," Luvuyo Mandela said. "It has less to do with where he came from, but rather the company that he kept."
Luvuyo Mandela is the grandson of Nelson Mandela's son from his first marriage. He is an ambassador for Cheesekids for Humanity, a community service organization aimed at encouraging young people to help neighboring communities in South Africa. He received a philosophy degree from Hamilton College in upstate New York in 2009.
The health of Nelson Mandela, now 95, made headlines over the summer when his condition slipped to critical. In early September, he was released from the hospital and returned home, where he continues to receive intensive care, according to various news reports. His current wife, Graca Machel, chose Luvuyo Mandela to accept the award.
Luvuyo Mandela said he first suspected his great-grandfather was an important person at the age of 6, when the two met in a hotel, surrounded by "a bunch of people in suits, looking serious." It was the type of scene he had only seen in movies.
Since then, Luvuyo Mandela said there have been several times in his life where he thought he understood what his great-grandfather meant to others, only to realize he had still been underestimating it.
"You think you get it, and then there's always an experience like, 'Wow, OK, I still don't get it.'"