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Today is Nelson Mandela Day

I was fortunate enough to meet Nelson Mandela in the early 90s. At the time, I was a budding journalist and was sent to his press conference at the Newark, NJ airport. As I stood, cramped with the hundreds of other Nelson Mandela and Amy Bodden-Bowllanjournalists awaiting his arrival off the tarmac, it was difficult to see where he would be entering. Once Mandela made his way through the gates, to the podium, I found something to step on, and was elevated just enough to make eye contact with him, as he approached the podium. Immediately he started to point his finger in my direction and I had no idea he was pointing at me. He summoned his security guards to “go and get her!” Huh?! Me?!
You can imagine my shock. They came so quickly and I had no idea as to what was happening. They literally made a b-line in my direction and before I knew it, I was whisked over tables and chairs, and was now standing next to THE Nelson Mandela, freedom fighter and recently released prsioner — at the podium. Once I was securely standing next to him, he then told the press corp., “Now, the press conference can begin.” I nearly fainted.

Needless to say, the reporter I was sent there with, to assist, was not too happy about what had transpired, as he referred to it as “unprofessional.” All I knew was that my grandparents revered Nelson Mandela, and having that experience was worth me getting in trouble. Yes, I got a slap on the wrist. Wouldn’t you? 


Today is Nelson Mandela’s 91st birthday and people are celebrating it by donating their time. Do something good for someone today — Nelson did that for me.


  1. George Edward Stanley says:

    What a wonderful, wonderful story, Amy! I received my doctorate (D. Litt. in African Linguistics) from the University of Port Elizabeth in South Africa in 1974. UPE is now Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. I went to South Africa because I wanted to study the linguistic problems the various Bantu groups had learning both Afrikaans and English. I concentrated on the Xhosa (Mandela is Xhosa.) My dissertation was “Relative/Identical Semantic Structuralization: Implications for the Teaching of Afrikaans and English to Xhosa-speakers in the Transkei.” I remember, too, in 1973, standing on top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, looking out in the distance at Robben Island, knowing Mandela was in prison there.

  2. George Edward Stanley says:

    Sorry. I got interrupted. To end, I remember, too, when Mandela was finally released from prison in 1990, and I remember the ceremonies during the change of government. In the years that followed, I was absolutely amazed that a person who had suffered so much could still have such an incredibly positive outlook on life and want only for all of the people of South Africa, united, to move forward to achieve what was best for the entire country. One can only wonder at what might have been had all those years not been lost on Robben Island.

  3. Amy Bowllan says:

    George, thank you for sharing your experiences and insights. I learn each time you leave a comment. The experience I had was one for the history books. I couldn’t quite capture how I was lifted off the ground :) but it’s a true story.

    What a wealth of information you provide. Thanks so much, friend.