A student’s reflections on Nelson Mandela’s influence

Dear Puget Sound community,


I am writing this letter to provide some context for the displaying of the South African flag outside of the ASUPS office on the front side of Wheelock Student Center.

We are displaying the flag to pay tribute to the passing of one of the worlds most influential and inspirational leaders, Nelson Mandela. The flag was first displayed on Tuesday, December 10, 2013, the first day of the memorial plans.


This particular flag is significant because it has an important history through ASUPS. The flag was given to ASUPS Cultural Events by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, an all-male South African a capella group when they visited campus in 2001.

The group was invited to sing and accompany Mandela when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Student Programs also booked both Donald Woods and Helen Suzman, two South African anti-apartheid activists, to come speak to students about their experiences and efforts in response to the atrocity of apartheid.

Desmond Tutu also gave a lecture on campus in 1984.


The flag is not the only connection between ASUPS and South Africa. Starting in the fall of 1984, ASUPS co-sponsored bringing a student from South Africa through the South African Educational Program by paying 50 percent of that student’s tuition at Puget Sound.  The student, whose name was Mogi Moodley, graduated in 1987 with a degree in Accounting.

Due to the success of the program, ASUPS co-sponsored a second student from South Africa, Thabo Mokoena, who served as an ASUPS Senator, and graduated in 1991.

During the South African apartheid, Puget Sound students protested for divestment of university investments.

ASUPS was also very active in pressuring for divestment through the university organizational structures.

Students and faculty also lobbied and protested against corporations that invested in South Africa at the time as well.

In addition, students helped build shantytowns in front of the S.U.B. to protest. Student protests at Puget Sound were in solidarity with those on many other U.S. collegiate campuses, seeking an end to Nelson Mandela’s incarceration.


As the memorial services for Nelson Mandela come to a close on Sunday, I encourage everyone to take some to reflect on what Nelson Mandela means to you.

Personally, Mandela’s compassion, courage and humility are qualities which we can all aspire to have. His unwavering commitment to human respect and dignity paired with his willingness to forgive inspire us and challenge us to adopt a similar mentality in our 21st century college lives.

Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I believe this is true for all Puget Sound students, and we can all learn from all of Mandela’s teachings.


In closing, I hope everyone gets a chance to share your condolences to South Africa and the Mandela family in the book at the Information Center. The book will be available to sign during Finals Week during operating hours and will then be sent to the South African government.

Thank you for your attention and your participation in remembering a truly incredible human being.



Eric Hopfenbeck

ASUPS President