Mandela's Vision for America

"The Universal Declaration of Human Rights served as the vindication of the justice of our cause." -Nelson Mandela

This year we should all dedicate the United Nations' Human Rights Day on December 10 to the life of Nelson Mandela, who has inspired all of us as a living embodiment of human rights. We are learning from our South African brothers and sisters their ritual and tradition not to mourn one's death, but to sing, dance, and celebrate the life they lived while they were with us instead. There is much to rejoice in Mandela's life.

Everywhere you look, Nelson Mandela's accomplishments are being highlighted in the media. Leaders from all walks of life are expressing their reflections on the legacy of Mandela. This week at the United Nations General Assembly, after a moment of silence in his honor it was understood that all countries believed Madiba was a great man and a great leader for his people. He was a living legend.

Mandela is blessed to be part of a time where the media, including social media, is able to educate on a mass scale, the life of such a profound leader. Nelson Mandela was able to uphold the UN Declaration of Human Rights for his nation. If he could do it, after facing 27 years in prison, so can all other leaders with the freedom that they have.

The United States of America is considered the epitome of freedom and upholding human rights which attracts many immigrants who have been deprived of these liberties in their country of origin. Working with the immigrant population in NYC, it is apparent that they have all suffered from living under corrupted leaders. It is interesting that these immigrants seek to gain their human rights by coming to America. America supports human rights in their own borders, but can American leaders learn from Mandela's vision to improve other countries' democracy, justice, and human rights? In an interview with Wolf Blitzer, Mandela stated:

Well, the United States of America plays an important role in world affairs. And all that I would like to happen is that American foreign policy should be consistent with the provisions of the United Nations charter, which calls upon all member countries to try and settle disputes by peaceful means. As a world leader, we would like United States to set an example in trying to carry out the fundamental principles which are laid down in the freedom -- in the United Nations charter.

To me, Nelson Mandela was a modern day Cyrus the Great, who created the first ever declaration of human rights. Nelson Mandela showed the world that the great leadership and multicultural ideology of King Cyrus in 576 BC is not outdated and can be kept alive in the 21st century. He sacrificed, suffered, and always remained on his quest for freedom. With all leaders showing admiration for Mandela's legacy, what will they truly take away from him? President Rouhani of Iran has expressed his respect for Mandela, what will he do to honor his legacy? Can he honor the legacy of both King Cyrus the Great and Mandela to bring human dignity for Iranians to improve human rights and recognize that Iran is the birthplace of human rights? Mandela also wished for Iran to uphold the United Nations charter. Can President Rouhani do that?

Many legendary people of African descent such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King have come and gone, leaving their messages of peace, freedom, and improving human rights. It is unfortunate that they were assassinated and unable to truly see the mark they made in history. Nelson Mandela is unique in that he was able to come full circle during his lifetime and even watch a biographical movie on his life. He carried Malcolm X and Martin Luther King's vision and made it happen for South African people.

In my Youth Program, I am determined to contribute to honor Mandela's legacy as an example for youth to learn from. Mandela himself had a special connection to youth as one of the founding members of African National Congress Youth League. He understood their vitality in the movement towards freedom and justice.

Let us hope the media continues to spread such positive, moving messages and displays of great leadership, and hope it will inspire all 193 leaders of the United Nations' General Assembly to follow in Mandela's footsteps to build peace and uphold human rights for all.