December 6, 2013

Today, the California Institute of Integral Studies community both mourns the loss, and celebrates the life, of Nelson Rolihlahla “Madiba” Mandela, a true visionary who led South Africa to dismantle its system of apartheid. Mandela, who became his country's first black president, died Thursday evening at the age of 95.

Mandela is an icon, admired for the role he played in South Africa's social and political transformation. He inspired people the world over struggling against all forms of oppression and understood that all forms of discrimination are connected.

He is universally respected for the qualities that allowed him to rise above the ugliness of a national history plagued by institutional racism: compassion, resilience, courage, perseverance, pragmatism, and equanimity, among many others.

For black citizens of South Africa, Mandela sought basic human rights and fought for change peacefully. He showed forgiveness toward white citizens who kept him imprisoned for 27 years, and helped steer his nation away from civil war.

In addition to his continued fight for the civil rights of his people—including the creation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a court-like restorative justice arm of Mandela’s democratically elected government—Mandela made a point of identifying LGBT issues as an integral part of the civil rights movement.

As the first president of post-apartheid South Africa, he ushered in the country’s new constitution, which included protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation, the first of its kind.

By treating people with dignity and empathy, Mandela set an important example for South Africa as it began to heal. The values that defined this transformative leader are values that we share and advance at CIIS. It is our mission to embody spirit, intellect, and wisdom in service to individuals, communities, and the Earth.

Our university’s philosophy is to provide extraordinary education for people committed to transforming themselves and the world. Today we thank Nelson Mandela and join people across the world uniting in celebration of his life and accomplishments.

To learn more about Nelson Mandela, the tribute on Democracy Now! is a great place to start.


By Maya Angelou

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
gnaws on kind words
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly.  Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed.  They existed.
We can be.  Be and be
better.  For they existed.

CIIS Administration

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