EWU, Whitworth professors share memories of Nelson Mandela




Posted on December 5, 2013 at 7:38 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 6 at 7:35 AM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Two professors from the Inland Northwest know South Africa quite well, and on Thursday shared their memories of Nelson Mandela and what his legacy means for the world.

READ MORE: Former South African President Nelson Mandela has died at age 95

Dr. Sheila Woodward is the music chair at Eastern Washington University.  Woodward was part of a musical performance in front of the former South African leader.

Photos: A look back at the life of Nelson Mandela

"Music played a very powerful role in the freedom struggle," Woodward said. "The press was censored.  So much of what was happening was not allowed to [be] viewed on the news media so they told the story through songs."

Whitworth University Professor Dr. John Yoder has spent a lifetime studying South African politics.  Yoder said his first trip to the country with students in 1994 was nerve racking.  Elections were looming, the government was not stable and there was random violence across the country.

"In 1994, when we went for the first time, the issue was really 'what would the transition be like?" said Yoder.  "Would it be peaceful?  Would a new government be able to address the problem faced?  Would the government be competent?"

Both professors agreed Nelson Mandela's legacy is one of peace, bridge building, and love of all people.

"Mandela stood for forgiveness and he made forgiveness a political reality," said Yoder.  "That's been a model that's been taken around the world."

"[Mandela's legacy is] to follow his philosophies that we must forgive but not forget," added Woodward.  "He believed in reconciliation, in telling the truth but then reconciling rather than having retribution."

Nelson Mandela died at his home in South Africa Thursday after several months of ongoing health problems. He was 95.