You think you are too young to be responsible or make a difference? Mandela thinks otherwise!
Young people have some lessons to learn about youth and responsibility especially in an age that considers immorality, frivolity and recklessness as hip or trendy. Young people of today are synonymous with light hearted frenzy and a gross incapacity to rise up to the demands and responsibility of their generation. We seek not to promote the exceptions but to recommend a rule for all.
This brings us to the question of how Nelson Mandela engaged his youth. Mandela was just 26 years of age when he became a member of the executive council of the ANC youth league. He and other like-minded young men rose up to confront the critical situation of segregation and marginalization of black people in South Africa. And in doing this, they upheld one of the virtues of youth – a capacity to take responsibility beyond self, to engage society, to look at the problem surrounding you and resist the temptation to think someone else will solve them.
However, the society of today is raising late starters, slow to take responsibility for their own lives let alone for others. Especially in this part of the world, youth are engulfed in the fanfare of sports, fashion, and entertainment and the fame, wealth and glamour that attend them. They are still struggling to get a hold of what life is really about and are barely prepared to play larger roles within society.
I’m afraid young people here are being raised to be victims in light of the nature of challenges confronting them. They are endangered species. What I find appalling is that young people have mastered an incredible but strange art of watching everything go against them and talking against it without doing something constructive about it.
Unlike today’s youth, Mandela would not allow his background or age define the limits of his responsibility or circumstances. He applied for a job as a night watchman while he pursued a degree in law at the University of Withwatersrand. He took study loans to make this possible. Yet, against the backdrop of a system that discouraged the education of young black people, Mandela emerged determined to be educated, not allowing himself be daunted by the apartheid regime nor borrowing the weakness of governance to excuse the creation of a great future. He maintained the belief that the creation of his future was in his own labour and not in circumstances.
A culture of entitlement and dependency on government has robbed many young people off a primary sense of responsibility for the success of their lives. They must take responsibility like Mandela for a thorough education. He persisted through unsuccessful attempts until he got his law degree. This sense of perseverance would come to serve him in pursuit of the worthy cause for which he is now known.
As a younger generation replaces another, we must ask the question of what kind of men or women will they be? The answer lies in the commitments they embrace today. We can’t expect them to give what they don’t have if they make wrong or superficial choices. Young people must maintain a religious and life-long dedication to self improvement and cultivation of virtue like those found in Mandela if they ever hope to come near the corridors of greatness. There are no shortcuts and the price of rigour and perseverance must be paid.
They must labour to improve themselves within and embrace without a commitment to a common good even at the expense of themselves. By the way, they won’t be needing grand Mandela-like platforms. They must begin at their homes, schools, workplace, businesses, friendships and relationships. GO!
Posted on December 12, 2013, in Smooth-Life*Clinic* and tagged Africa, Difference, Excellence, Leadership, Nelson Mandela, Responsibility, Society, Young Minds, Youth. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.