On December 5, 2013, the President, Board of Trustees, and Staff of Meridian International Center honored iconic global leader, His Excellency Nelson Mandela, (1918 – 2013), the first black President of South Africa.
In 1993, Mr. Mandela, then President of the African National Congress, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize together with then President F.W. de Klerk for their work in dismantling the system of apartheid in South Africa. Because of this work and Mr. Mandela’s tireless commitment, South Africa held its first democratic elections on April 27, 1994. This election led to Mr. Mandela’s victory as the country’s first black president on May 10, 1994, with de Klerk as his first deputy.
As President of South Africa, Mr. Mandela’s leadership was characterized by the innovative ways in which he utilized the talents and strengths of South Africans to integrate their society. One of the hallmarks of Mr. Mandela’s nation-building efforts was his use of the country’s enthusiasm for sports as a pivot point to promote reconciliation between whites and blacks, encouraging black South Africans to support the national rugby team. Just one year after the end of apartheid, South Africa held the world’s attention when it hosted and won the Rugby World Cup, bringing further recognition and prestige to the country. In 1996, Mr. Mandela signed into law a new constitution for the nation, establishing a strong central government based on majority rule, while guaranteeing the rights of minorities and the freedom of expression.
Mr. Mandela also strived to protect South Africa’s economy from collapse during his presidency. Through his Reconstruction and Development Plan, the South African government funded the creation of jobs, housing, and basic health care. In fact, much of Mr. Mandela’s efforts laid the foundation for the path of economic development on which South Africa is currently embarked. Since stepping down from the presidency in 1999, Mr. Mandela continued to serve as an ambassador for South Africa and the fundamental tenets of equality and freedom. Whether through critical roles in peace negotiations, efforts to bring the 2010 Football World Cup to South Africa, or the fight against HIV/AIDS, Mr. Mandela remained a consummate statesman and an invaluable voice in the global community.
Ambassador Stuart Holliday, Meridian’s President and CEO, remarked, “As a global leadership organization, Meridian recognizes leaders who have contributed dynamic, innovative, and collaborative solutions to the complex social, political, and economic problems of our time. In this light, we see President Nelson Mandela as the epitome of global leadership. Through his fight to end apartheid, even during his 27-year incarceration, Mr. Mandela taught the world that with unwavering commitment and perseverance, anything is possible. Today our team honors President Mandela and his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, and the people of South Africa.”