Mandela Day 2013

South African Ambassador, Jon Ratcliffe on his inspiration to do something on Mandela Day.


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                     (Jon Ratcliffe speaking at last year's Summit in Pittsburgh, USA)


In October last year I was fortunate enough to attend the One Young World Summit in Pittsburgh. This is an epic event with participants including some of the most inspiring leaders in the world. Over the course of three days, I heard incredible speeches from world luminaries like Bill Clinton, Jamie Oliver and Kofi Annan. We also had the opportunity to hear from some incredibly motivating young people; globally based youth leaders who are all doing the most remarkable things with their lives like feeding the starving, sheltering the homeless and healing the weak. This bunch certainly made (and continues to make) a real difference in the world.

I left last year’s One Young World Summit brimming with inspiration and excitement and a strong drive to go out and make a real difference. I had been back in the real world for only a few months when a perfect opportunity to create global impact came across my desk.

I was having a chat with Sello, a friend and someone who I have great respect for. He has been instrumental in the great work the Nelson Mandela Center for Memory has done in South Africa and at the time was their Communications lead. We got to talking about how we could potentially take Mandela Day online in a unique way and get the world to truly rally around it. In this conversation, we agreed that getting some of Madiba’s long time friends to call the world to action on YouTube could really get the online community to get involved and commit to the cause.

The plan was agreed, emails were sent out, and many a late night phone call took place and in a matter of weeks videos from all over the world started to stream in encouraging people to participate in this year’s international Mandela Day. The Dalai Lama, Richard Branson, Desmond Tutu, Hillary Clinton, Morgan Freeman and numerous other international personalities including the crew on the International Space Station sent through videos of support and in just a few days this incredible video was live on YouTube and driving thousands of people to pledge support on Mandela Day.

In only seven days, over 18,000 hours of time had been pledged and people from around the world had uploaded videos to tell their friends what they would be doing for Mandela Day. Thousands of people from 92 countries around the world pledged to give clothes to people on the street, help out at animal welfare centers, make food for local homeless shelters and generally make the world a better place.

This whole experience taught me so much but most striking for me, is the realisation that the internet is an incredibly powerful tool to help change society and that in the name of an incredible man like Nelson Mandela, entire mountains can be moved  - both online and off.

Madiba himself once explained that a world of good deeds is the best gift he could ever hope for on his birthday, I hope that you were able join me and many thousands of people around the world in pledging some time to do something awesome on Mandela Day, in the name of one of the greatest men who has ever walked our planet.