Nelson Mandela's grandson preaches unity, benefits of education at Rowan College at Burlington
Mount Laurel, NJ
09/13/2017 07:31 AM

 The community gathered at Rowan College at Burlington County to see the grandson of one of history’s most notable political activists Tuesday night.

Ndaba Mandela, grandson of Nelson Mandela, kicked off the college’s new Presidential Lecture Series, greeting a crowd of about 100 at the Votta Hall auditorium at the campus off Route 38.

Mandela gave a speech to local residents and students that highlighted the empowerment of education and the lessons of hard work and unity he learned from his late grandfather.

Without naming politicians, Mandela said the leadership in America and in his birth country of South Africa has lost its way.

Instead of focusing on how a leader can bring a community down, his message to the crowd was that through a sense of teamwork, community and the adoption of lofty dreams, they need to be the change they seek.

“Today, the enemy is no longer out there. It is no longer the judge, the policeman, the courts. It is no longer the physical chains. It is the mental chains in our minds,” Mandela said. “Through these tough times we need unity. We need to continue to dream big.”

Mandela backed up his message that any dream can be achieved regardless of who is in charge of a country by telling stories of his childhood with his grandfather.

If Nelson Mandela could go from prison to president of South Africa, then surely, the people in the room, all with access to technology, could overcome their obstacles, he said.

Mandela was the first speaker in what the college hopes is a program they can continue by attracting big names to campus that can provide unique perspectives.

“Being an attractive destination for a recognizable name that has an awesome message is all a part of our transformation,” said the college’s acting President Mike Cioce.

Mandela brought in a diverse crowd Tuesday night eager for the opportunity to hear from someone who was not only so close to the great Nelson Mandela, but who also has created a legacy of his own.

Ndaba Mandela was recently named one of Black Entertainment Television's “28 Men of Change.”

The 34-year-old worked as a political consultant in Japan and founded the nonprofit Africa Rising, which works to promote a positive image of the countries in Africa and empower youth to seek higher education and involvement in their community.

“I thought it would be interesting learning about Nelson Mandela’s grandson. It might help me better understand my education,” said Jennifer Smith, of Evesham, a liberal arts and sciences student at the college.

There were plenty of students in the crowd, but there were also many people who lived nearby and saw the speech as a great opportunity to get out and learn.

“I was inquisitive of what he had to say. This is close to where we live and we wanted to take advantage of it. We go to culinary art classes here and some movie nights,” said Diane Polk, of Willingboro, who attended with her husband, John.

RCBC history teacher Sue Kozel called the night an extraordinary moment, saying it was a rare chance to experience "the legend of Nelson Mandela" from someone so close to the iconic leader

"It’s really exciting,” she said.

Burlington County Freeholder Linda Hughes, who introduced Mandela at the event, said that the Presidential Lecture Series was a new idea to meet the needs of the community.

“In addition to helping the students, one of our major focuses was to be a good neighbor,” said Hughes, who is the county liaison to the college.

RCBC does not have any other lectures planned at this time. 

On Friday at the Votta Hall auditorium, the college is hosting a free music concert featuring pianist Alene Shrut, senior coaching faculty of The Julliard School’s Marcus Institute for Vocal Arts.

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