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Obama leads celebrations of 100th anniversary of the birth of global peace icon Nelson Mendala

Donna Coutts, AFP, July 17, 2018 7:00PM Kids News

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Nelson Mandela and his then-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on February 13, 1990, at a rally attended by more than 100,000 people to celebrate Mandela's release from jail. Picture: AFP media_cameraNelson Mandela and his then-wife Winnie Madikizela-Mandela on February 13, 1990, at a rally attended by more than 100,000 people to celebrate Mandela's release from jail. Picture: AFP


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Today marks 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela — a man who inspired* the world to seek peace and freedom for all.

Former US President Barack Obama is in South Africa this week leading celebrations for the 100th anniversary. July 18 each year is the United Nation’s Nelson Mandela International Day.

Mr Mandela, who died in 2013, spent 27 years in terrible conditions in prison for his political beliefs and actions and then, on his release, became the first black President of South Africa.

He worked to end South Africa’s system of apartheid*, which kept black people away from white people and his actions won him the Nobel Peace Prize*.

In South Africa, he is described as the “Father of the Nation” and is seen as a global* symbol of peace.

Mr Obama met Mr Mandela in 2005 and gave the eulogy, or speech about his life, at Mr Mandela’s funeral in 2013.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation, which Mr Mandela created to work for freedom and peace, called this year for people to “take action and inspire change”.

Mr Obama’s speech in the South African city of Johannesburg today is seen by many as his most important speech since he was US President.

“It gives him an opportunity to lift up a message of tolerance*, inclusivity* and democracy* at a time when there are obviously challenges to Mandela’s legacy* around the world,” Mr Obama’s spokesman Benjamin Rhodes told the newspaper the New York Times.

Barack Obama media_cameraFormer US President Barack Obama speaks to crowds in Johannesburg on December 10, 2013 after Nelson Mandela’s death. The image in the background is of Mr Mandela. Picture: AP

Mr Obama will also host an event tomorrow for 200 young leaders from across Africa.

In the eulogy Mr Obama gave at Mr Mandela’s funeral, he said he “makes me want to be a better man” and called him “the last great liberator* of the 20th century”.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has said he would mark “Mandela 100” by donating half his salary to charity to honour “the great sacrifices* he made and his tireless* commitment to improving the lives of the most vulnerable*.”

media_cameraA picture of Nelson Mandela is displayed inside a gym for young black men in Soweto, South Africa. Mr Mandela used to train there in the 1950s. Picture: AFP

F.W. de Klerk, a former South African President who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Mr Mandela in 1993, told news agency AFP that the 100th anniversary was a chance to reflect* on South Africa’s current troubles.

“I’m convinced that President Mandela would be deeply concerned, as I am, about the present state of affairs*,” he said.

Although there was a lot of progress in South Africa during Mr Mandela’s life, South Africa is still a very unequal country, with black people generally much poorer than white people.

A World Bank report this year said South Africa was the world’s most unequal society.

“He fought to make us politically free, but we are not economically* free,” 19-year-old South African Mtate Phakela told AFP. “We can’t access education or wealth. I have mixed feelings. He did his best, but people who came after could have done better.”

media_cameraNew South African money has images of Nelson Mandela in celebration of the centenary of his birth. Picture: AFP


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  • inspired: made people feel like doing something
  • apartheid: a system to separate and discriminate against a racial group
  • Nobel Peace Prize: the world’s highest award for working towards peace
  • global: worldwide
  • tolerance: allow opinions or behaviours that is difference to your own
  • inclusivity: include people who may otherwise be left out
  • democracy: everyone can vote to elect leaders
  • legacy: what is left behind
  • liberator: a person who frees people
  • sacrifices: things given up
  • tireless: never gets tired
  • vulnerable: could be harmed
  • reflect: think back on or think carefully about
  • state of affairs: how things are
  • economically: relating to money



  1. What date is Nelson Mandela Day?
  2. What is the name of the peace prize mentioned in the story? Who did Mr Mandela share it with?
  3. What did Mr Obama say at the funeral eulogy?
  4. Who is the current president of South Africa?
  5. What did the World Bank report say about South Africa?


1. Symbol of Peace

The article states that Nelson Mandela is seen as a global symbol of peace. On an A4 piece of paper, design a symbol/logo depicting Mr Mandela as a sign of peace. Use information in the article to help with your elements of design.

Present your symbols to the class and create a class display ‘Mandela — a symbol of peace’ with all your designs.

2. Extension: Create an acrostic poem using the word M A N D E L A

Time: Allow 40 minutes
Curriculum links: English, Design & Technologies, History, Personal & Social


After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many wow words or ambitious pieces of vocabulary that you can find in yellow. Discuss the meanings of these words and see if you can use them orally in another sentence.

QUESTION: Nelson Mandela worked to help South African children go to school. Why is it important all children have the chance to go to school?Explain your answer using full sentences.

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