Nelson Mandela, the freedom fighter and first leader of post-apartheid South Africa, turned 95 on Thursday, prompting celebrations of his life and service around the world.
Despite his being hospitalized for weeks now with a lung infection, the South African government on Thursday announced that Mandela’s condition is “steadily improving,” making today’s celebrations all the more festive. When Mandela was born nearly a century ago, it was a time when the white minority dominated every aspect of life in South Africa. Mandela sought equality for the black majority — a position that led to his 1962 imprisonment. Once Mandela was finally freed from his jail cell in 1990, the man once branded as a terrorist emerged to a world poised for change.
In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution adopting Mandela’s birthday as International Nelson Mandela Day — a commemorative day meant to encourage people to personally make efforts to change the world for the better. Alongside the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the U.N. annually urges people to spend just 67 minutes helping others (the number 67 representing Mandela’s years in public service). The Foundation has even helpfully suggested 67 ways that people can get involved in their communities and internationally.
People around the world have heeded the call, which has been boosted over the last month through star-studded videos and social media campaigns. Ndileka Mandela, a granddaughter of Mandela, poured soup for poor children at a charity event, telling reporters that “because of the fighter that he is, he was able to fight a repressive system, and he was able, through God and everybody’s prayers, to make it today.” European Union President Herman Van Rompuy packed food parcels during a visit to Pretoria, and said his two sons were fans of Mandela, whom he described as “the brightest sun of South Africa.”
A few images from around the world highlight the celebratory nature of today’s events:
The United Kingdom
U.S. Embassy In Pretoria
The German Mission to the U.N.
“Through our own lives, by heeding his example, we can honor the man who showed his own people – and the world – the path to justice, equality, and freedom,” President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama said about Mandela in a statement released today.