Headshot of Chancellor Gary May with text Gary May Chancell-ing

Chancell-ing: Remembering Mandela and celebrating freedom

Column By Gary May in Davis Enterprise 

"I still get chills when I think about a day in June of 1990. I was among more than 50,000 people who packed Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium, all of us eager to witness history. We gathered to hear Nelson Mandela, the South African leader in the fight against apartheid who later became the country’s first democratically elected president.

Just four months prior, Mandela had been released from 27 years of political imprisonment. The energy was electrifying, like a hero’s welcome, as he spoke about racial discrimination and referenced the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Now, I also think of that uplifting day in 1990 as UC Davis hosts its Mandela Washington Fellows this month. This is a group of 30 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa who will further hone their skills and grow their global networks. As the name of the program implies, these Mandela Washington Fellows are brilliant, energetic and fearless scholars who are determined to shape a better tomorrow.

In today’s world, we need to build the widest range of connections to address global challenges. The Mandela Washington Fellows are determined to create a better tomorrow for all through their expertise and growing leadership in engineering, energy, sustainability and many other fields. I’m proud of UC Davis’ longstanding support of this program and the nearly 130 Mandela Washington Fellows we’ve hosted.

In a typical year, the cohort would spend six weeks in Davis to participate in workshops, leadership sessions and community service events as part of the program. We are hosting the Mandela Washington Fellows virtually this year through the end of July due to the pandemic, but we welcome them to our Davis community all the same.

So, Nelson Mandela will be on my mind all month. I also think of him as we continue to strive for harmony during these often tumultuous times. Progress sometimes moves at a glacial pace, but like Mandela, we must stay strong in the pursuit of freedom, equality and justice."

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Read the full article at the Davis Enterprise website.

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