The Mandela Lecture: cultivating tomorrow’s leaders

Obama at the Mandela lecture. (Image by The Obama Foundation)

A crowd of about 15,000 people gathered in Johannesburg on the eve of Mandela’s 100th birthday to attend the annual Mandela Lecture conducted by former US President Barack Obama and hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Various religious leaders, ministers, former presidents, traditional kings, and local celebrities attended the event. Former President Kgalema Motlante, Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu and former DA parliamentarian Lindiwe Mazibuko were some of the many faces spotted at the event.

The Soweto Gospel Choir opened the event with an unforgettable performance of the South African National Anthem. The magnitude of the event showed the eagerness of the attendees to honour the man who dedicated his life to the fight for freedom, democracy and equality.

The opening speaker and Chairman of the Trustees of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Professor Jabulo Ndebele, began the lecture by encouraging fellow South Africans to “find the Madiba in us.” This set the tone for the lecture which aimed to encourage the audience to unite in standing against injustice, racism and division.


Ramaphosa, Obama, and Ndebele at the Mandela Lecture. (Image by Nelson Mandela Foundation)


Dr. Patrice Motsepe, Graca Machel, and President Cyril Ramaphosa expressed their gratitude and appreciation for the life lessons that uTata had taught all South Africans. In his speech Dr. Motsepe addressed businesses encouraging them to eradicate corruption and prevent it from spilling over into other sectors in society.

These three speakers paved the way for the honorary address by former President Obama. He acknowledged President Ramaphosa by saying that through his leadership he was “inspiring new hope”. He also paid tribute to the late Mama Sisulu who also would have celebrated her 100th birthday this year.

He concluded with words of hope for the youth and encouraged them to strive to create a better tomorrow for future generations. He said the youth have the power to change the world as Madiba did during his life and urged them to work hard, learn and make smart choices. This would ensure that they would be leaders of tomorrow and create the “universal freedom” that Nelson Mandela hoped for in his lifetime, Obama concluded.

 “Keep believing, keep marching, keep building, and keep raising your voice. Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world,” said Obama.

As we celebrate Mandela Day on 18 Jult, let us carry the legacy of uTata through giving 67 minutes of our time to help those around us who need it most.




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