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Writers Against Racism: Celebrating Mandela’s Release

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." -Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela and Amy Bodden Bowllan
Earlier, my friend Chad sent me a tweet to remind me that it was the 20th anniversary of the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. Thanks, Chad! 

And as amazing as it sounds, many students still do not know about Mandela’s legacy, or even why this is a historic day. A man who spent 27 years of his life, in prison, fighting for freedom, and against apartheid, should be a known figure. He story should also be taught in schools all over the world!

Last summer, I shared my good fortune of having had the rare opportunity of meeting Mr. Mandela at a (news) press conference in Newark, NJ. That chance meeting has left an indelible mark on my spirit, and I thought it would be a good day to (re)share the link with you: The Day I Met Nelson Mandela.


  1. George Edward Stanley says:

    Amy, I loved seeing this photograph again. I’m sure this was one of those life experiences you have to keep telling yourself actually happened – even with this photographic evidence! Did you think, when you left your house that morning, to get this story, that you would actually meet this great leader? Wonderful! I think I may have told you about the time in Cape Town, in 1973, when I stood on top of Table Mountain and looked out in the distance at Robben Island, knowing that Nelson Mandela was still in prison there. The South African university, where I took my doctorate in African Linguistics, the University of Port Elizabeth, is now called NELSON MANDELA METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY. When I was there, the university was bilingual -Afrikaans and English. Now it’s trilingual: Afrikaans, English, and Xhosa, Mandela’s mother tongue.

  2. Amy Bowllan says:

    George, when I posted this story back in the summer, as you’ll recall, the photo was pretty tiny. I was kind of embarrassed to share my experience, since at the time, the reporter I was with was annoyed that Nelson had summoned ME to the front of the press conference. Here I was a lowly researcher who couldn’t even see him from where I was standing. I knew that morning that Nelson would be arriving at Newark Airport, but what I didn’t know was that my “begging” would allow me the opportunity to be on the tarmac with such a renowned leader! The vision of you standing so close yet so far is amazing. That’s a story in and of itself. Amazing how we all connect. :)