Late Nelson Mandela Spoke at Bobby Dodd Stadium in 1990


Image courtesy ABC News

Sadly, the world lost one of its greatest voices for peace and justice from oppression in the world when former South African president, Nelson Mandela, passed away today at the age of 95.

"“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”"

Among the many great things Mandela accomplished in his long life was to travel the world spreading his message, and one of those stops was in Atlanta in 1990, when he spoke in front of over 50,000 people at Georgia Tech‘s Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandela once said “Sport has the power to change the world…”, so it’s no surprise that he chose one of America’s most storied stadiums in which to speak.

During his speech, he likened the struggles of his South African people against racial discrimination to the civil rights movement in the United States.

“We are . . . conscious that here in the southern part of the country, you have experienced the degradation of racial segregation, ” he declared. “We continue to be inspired by the knowledge that in the face of your own difficulties, you are in the forefront of the anti-apartheid movement in this country.”

Then, drawing on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Mandela declared, “Let freedom ring. Let us all acclaim now, ‘Let freedom ring in South Africa. Let freedom ring wherever the people’s rights are trampled upon.”

Georgia Tech was fortunate to be included in Mandela’s whirlwind tour of Atlanta, and it’s a part of Tech’s history that should never be forgotten. A complete account of Mandela’s journey through Atlanta from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution can be found here.

Rest in peace and in power, Mr. Mandela. You provided a great light for the world, and may you continue to shine in the next life.