JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Freedom. Compassion. Forgiveness. Acts of kindness.
Simple words or phrases lie at the heart of an inspiring message from Dr. Makaziwe Mandela. The eldest daughter of Nelson Mandela has been in Jacksonville throughout the week, continuing her father’s work on inclusion and equality.
"The journey to come here was long, but I think the warm, kind, reception, the hospitality that we have received from this city is overwhelming," she told News4Jax. "I have to say we are truly humbled."
On Thursday, which would have been her father's 101st birthday, Jacksonville University presented her with the 2019 Presidential Global Citizen Award -- an honor given only three times in the school's 85-year history.
"The idea that Dr. Mandela would come here with her Ph.D. in anthropology and bring us all together so that we can think about poverty and food and education and the link between those is an extraordinary opportunity," said JU President Tim Cost.
Makaziwe Mandela spoke about her efforts in education, and her work to bring unity and compassion across the world. The message resonated on the university campus and inspired leaders across the area, those attending and even organizing the ceremony.
"Can you build an institution that can help a region be better economically, philosophically, emotionally? By talking realistically about important issues like black and white and rich and poor, and apartheid and not," Cost said.
"Ask yourself: What is it that you put limits on your life about? What is it that has diminished your genius, your efficacy, your agency to make change in the world? What is it that has held you back from being your best self?" questioned Khalil Osiris, House of Mandela board member
Makaziwe Mandela shared her message is for those in Northeast Florida to the other side of the planet.
"We've got to celebrate diversity of cultures of ethnic groups. America is a land of immigrants whether you like it or not," she said. "I think there are wonderful stories in this city and I want to say I am going back to South Africa better, a better person and much more experienced person for having set my footprint in Jacksonville. Thank you very much."
Dr. Mandela also spent time at Channel 4, discussing what it means that the world recognized Mandela International Day, which was established 10 years ago by the United Nations as a way to encourage doing good deeds.
“It's important to remember what Nelson Mandela stood for. Nelson Mandela stood for freedom, for being compassionate, for doing little acts of kindness, for forgiveness, because this is something that the world needs more today than ever,” Makaziwe Mandela said. “Because we increasingly see a fractured world. A world where differences actually are enhanced.
"And yet, it is the differences that make up the rich world in which we live in, and so what my dad stood for was to say: How can we harness the good in each and every one of us and work together to build a better society? He fought for that. He went to prison for that. He died believing in that, because he would, in his life, do little acts of kindness. Not just being president of the country, but even after he retired from the presidency he continued to do good works of kindness in society.”
Makaziwe Mandela grew up with the pressure that comes from having a famous parent, but she said her father encouraged her not to let that define her.
“I think I made a decision early on that I would lead my life the best way I can. Yes, my father has set an example of how to be a good citizen. So as my father has said numerous times to us, 'If you have an ambition to be like your father, then you don't have an ambition. You have to have an ambition to be better than your parents.' Yes, those are very big shoes to fit in. But I think in my little way, I've lived life to create better lives for other people. In terms of my businesses, in terms of the family foundation that we set up focusing mainly on food security and education to uplift other people out of poverty and create wealth in very simple rudimentary ways," she said.
Makaziwe Mandela believes her father’s message still resonates, and can still transform any person.
“I'll try to make life better for other employees. I now run a factory. I employ about 15 people, and at least I'm creating something for survival for those people. Whatever little way. We don't all have to be a Nelson Mandela. We don't need to be Martin Luther King. We don't have to be JFK. But in our neighborhoods, we can help our neighbors to become better people," she said.
While this is Makaziwe Mandela’s first visit to Jacksonville, she came away impressed with the efforts of Jacksonville University to connect with the Arlington community.
“When you look at the president of the university, of Jacksonville University ... he has made the university to be something that gets involved in uplifting the community in which it exists. To me it touches me at the core of my heart. So I ask myself what is it that people like that have that drives them to continually do good? Because as my father says, no one is born hating another person. We are taught to hate, and if we're taught to hate we can be taught to love," Makaziwe Mandela said.
Makaziwe Mandela said actions can make a difference, but she also wants to see “good” acknowledged and encouraged.
“There's little acts of kindness that I see in Jacksonville from the president of the Jacksonville University, from Operation New Hope, they give me a lot of hope that not all is lost," Makaziwe Mandela said. "As we continue, we’ve got to talk more about these good stories. It's a challenge for you in the media to focus on those good stories because the more we tell the good stories the more acts of kindness and goodness proliferates in society.”
Makaziwe Mandela will be a guest Sunday on "This Week in Jacksonville," which begins at 9 a.m. on Channel 4.