Story & Photos by Marianne Salza
Over 800 students, board members, Xaverian brothers, previous headmasters, and local officials stood in the Malden Catholic High School (MC) gymnasium, extending their arms with conviction, as Leadership Series speaker, Ndaba Mandela, urged them to. Confidently, they repeated Mandela’s affirmation in unison, “I am a leader.
What I dream, I can achieve.” Like his “granddad”, Nelson Mandela — a resilient humanitarian and 1993 Nobel Peace Prize recipient — Ndaba Mandela believes that youth are the leaders of a hopeful tomorrow. Mandela’s January 24 presentation fostered inclusion, love, and equality. “Young people need to take lead today. You are more powerful than you think you are,” said Mandela, who urged students to choose a cause that speaks to their hearts. “Your parents want you to be diamonds and shine.” Mandela encouraged listeners to stand up for the marginalized, explaining that leaders allow others to become champions. “Leaders serve their community. Be a voice for those who are voiceless,” Mandela advocated. “Engage with people you want to help. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason: so you can listen more than you talk. The first thing you do when you want to help people is listen. Often, the people who are experiencing challenges also have solutions.” Mandela is confident that youth will lead the nation, amplifying a message of peace and equality. “My grandfather said if a person can be taught to hate, then a person can be taught to love, because love comes more natural to the human condition,” Mandela recognized. “Do not make your choices out of fear. Make your choices out of hope that you will achieve unity.” Mandela asserted that fellowship is strength. Kindness and patient attentiveness are necessary to uplift voices. “The future of this school is in diversity. There is power in diversity. We learn how to do things in a different, more efficient, and innovative way,” acknowledged Mandela to the student body that is 40% diverse, including international students. “When we have an open heart, we are able to learn and become better,” expressed Mandela, who implored students to apply his grandfather’s principles in their own communities. “My grandfather had a lot of compassion. Compassion is what we need in this world.” His grandfather’s wisdom and gentleness bolstered Mandela’s belief that he could make a difference. Mandela encouraged students to vote and be aware of who represents them in their district so their concerns can be heard. Ndaba Mandela was born in 1982, during the apartheid regime in South Africa. He described the system as so brutal that if a child was born from a mixed race couple, he or she would be removed and placed in a separate area of mixed race people. Ndaba Mandela’s grandfather, Nelson Mandela, was the leader of an anti-apartheid movement that brought liberation and peace to South Africa. Mandela — who had a sense of humor and enjoyed dancing — raised his grandson to be understanding, passionate, and genuine. Now Mandela promotes positive change through collaboration, tolerance, and respect. He is co-founder and chairman of the African community-based foundation, Africa Rising. Mandela was involved in creating the International Day of Happiness at the United Nations. His book, “Going to the Mountain: Life Lessons from my Grandfather, Nelson Mandela,” chronicles his life, telling the story of Nelson Mandela from his grandson’s perspective. Mandela is presently organizing the 95th Nelson Mandela International Day on July 18, in celebration of his grandfather’s birthday. Principal Jeff Smith felt that one of the most important topics that Mandela discussed was about “dreaming big.” “It reinforced working hard, and continuing to push yourself out of your comfort zone,” explained Principal Smith. Malden Catholic President John Thornburg feels that Nelson and Ndaba Mandela’s story is a new level for students, faculty, and staff to aspire for. “His message about compassion and understanding others fits well with our school mission,” noted President Thornburg. Senior, Jackson Norales, concurs that Mandela’s presentation reinforced Malden Catholic’s Xaverian values of simplicity, compassion, trust, and zeal. Norales is the secretary of the National Honor Society, and the key spiritual leader of his grade’s community service organization. “When I started at MC, courage was something I struggled with – trust in myself that I could be a leader in this world,” revealed Norales, a Malden resident. “Community and group work will lead to the most change.” Mandela’s pride in his country, and his grandfather’s courageousness resonated with Norales, who enjoyed learning about personal narratives, like attending soccer games. In addition to service and charity, Norales and senior classmate Sachelle Sterlin agree that coming together as a group is one of the most vital lessons they learned from Mandela’s lecture. Sterlin is a member of the African American Policy Forum, which supports human right and the expansion of racial justice and gender equality. “We did research to promote legislation that improves the conditions in America for black women,” described Sterlin, of Malden, about her Young Scholars Program internship. “The message that impacted me the most today was Mr. Mandela’s message about youth being the catalyst for social change, and us picking up the movement from the older generations.”