Nelson Mandela Reaffirms Howard's International Prominence: Unveils Plan for Early and Adult Education Initiative

By Hawkins, B. Denise | Black Issues in Higher Education, October 2, 1994 | Go to article overview

Nelson Mandela Reaffirms Howard's International Prominence: Unveils Plan for Early and Adult Education Initiative


Hawkins, B. Denise, Black Issues in Higher Education


Nelson Mandela Reaffirms Howard's International Prominence: Unveils. Plan for Early and Adult Education Initiative

by B. Denise Hawkins

WASHINGTON, DC -- Under brilliant blue skies and a blazing sun, South African President Nelson Mandela fed a hungry crowd of more than 15,000 with his words and his presence at Howard University.

The small, gray-haired man that many African Americans here called their hero, strode from the university's Founder's Library draped in a black cap and gown to a pitched canopy just yards away from where he received an honorary law degree.

Stirring spirituals, anthems and a poem set to music preceded Mandela's 20-minute speech. At first he gave the through of students, dignitaries and community leaders something to laugh about -- "I am very happy to notice that we don't have in this crowd children under 10, because my experience with them is that they don't like me very much."

He later launched into an acceptance speech that wove together the harsh but familiar battle against racial apartheid and the reality of the long struggle ahead for "true democracy" in the new Republic of South Africa.

Howard University's Interim President Joyce A. Ladner conferred the honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Mandela. "Mr. Mandela, you bring with you to these hallowed grounds of Howard University a spirit of reconciliation and redemption," Ladner said.

"It is fitting that Howard University should be the first institution of higher education in the United States to honor these achievements since you became president," added Ladner who spoke of the longstanding ties between the university and South Africa. Howard admitted its first South African student in 1896. Currently 12 of the university's 770 international students are from South Africa.

"Because you have been part of the effort over the years, for you to honor us is at the same time to rightfully honor yourselves. What has been obtained in South Africa today is an achievement for Black people throughout the world," said Mandela who took every opportunity during his four-day visit to Washington to thank African Americans and other U.

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