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Nelson Mandela Inspired the Baby Boomer Generation

When Nelson Mandela was imprisoned in 1978 I was a junior at Ohio University. As a young,politically conscious activist, I joined many college students across the country in demanding that our universities divest from South Africa. We wanted our institutions to cease investing in companies that traded or had operations in South Africa. We were outraged at what was going on in South Africa with apartheid. The way blacks were being treated there was reminiscent of the way our own parents and grandparents had been treated here under the so-called "Jim Crow" laws.

Protests were held at many universities. As a result of these organized "divestment campaigns", the boards of trustees of several universities voted to divest completely from South Africa and companies with major South African interests. Hampshire College was the first in the nation to divest from apartheid South Africa. They were joined by the University of Massachusetts, Tufts University, Smith College, the University of Wisconsin, Ohio University, Amherst College and Antioch College. But the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, was when the University of California authorized the withdrawal of three billion dollars worth of investments from the apartheid state. Nelson Mandela stated his belief that the University of California's massive divestment was particularly significant in abolishing white-minority rule in South Africa.

Today as I reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela, I am reminded that one person can truly make a difference and inspire an entire generation.

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