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July 18th Nelson Mandela Day – It’s in Your Hands Now

Nelson Mandela International Day is day for us to honor the touchstone of determination and succession.

Every year on July 18, we highlight the legacy of a man who, at the expense of himself, displayed an unwavering commitment to social justice, human rights and dignity for men and women.

But this year should be different. Rather than highlighting the man, let us remember his lasting message. As the country reopens and we regain some semblance of normalcy, more than ever we need this reminder.

The reminder of succession.

In June of 2008, Mandela made a call for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustice

Mandela said, “After nearly 90 years of life, it is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

What was true then is true now. There is more work to do.

We have a duty to contribute to something larger than ourselves, and although, like Mandela, we may never see the fruits of the seeds we plant. We can only pray that the next generation will nurture them well.

When you have the realization that you are contributing to something larger than yourself, it reminds you that your life truly begins to have value when you live it as a piece of a larger picture. This is one of the many reasons I enjoy working for the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center as the Manager of Public Programs. I feel a sense of duty, pride and purpose to make my contribution to the larger picture.

I am blessed to work with a diverse group of people.

We confidently embrace our individuality within the confines of a team environment. Everyone is uniquely different, but we have the important things in common. We care about people. We advocate for equality, social justice and human rights. We share a deep sense of duty to ensure all social groups feel seen, heard and accepted.

On my first day, my colleagues emphasized this. Although our titles, tasks and responsibilities are not the same, we work together. My job is not my job alone.

That is the heart of the message we have received from one of the most prominent figures in world history in June 2008. The reminder that there is more work do, but we must do it together.

Former President Barack Obama once said this about the impact of Mandela: “His sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress. In the most modest of ways, I was one of those people who tried to answer his call.”

Someday it will be our turn to answer Mandela’s call, push to move things forward and then leave something behind for the next generation. The cycle continues.

Receive, work and pass it on.

Rahim Thompson is Manger of Public Programs at Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.

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