I bet Nelson Mandela was a Liberal Arts Student



Pursuit of the truth, justice for all, a panoramic view of the world, a better understanding of ones self and how it relates to the world; I bet Nelson Mandela was a liberal arts student. He applied the core concepts of a liberal arts education into his message of peace and inspiration to many. Although I couldn’t find his specific college major in my research, he earned his bachelor of arts degree from the University of South Africa  in 1942. Imagine sitting next to a young Mandela in your Philosophy class? Imagine Mandela challenging a fellow student’s narrow-minded view of the world? Yeah, he’d fit right in here in College Hall.

I was eight years old when Nelson Mandela was released from prison in February of 1990. I remember hearing about his release but was too young to comprehend the significance of what this meant. Over the last few weeks since his passing, there have been numerous stories written about his life and impact on the world and the people of South Africa. I find his story both fascinating and inspiring.

Think about this:

  • Mandela spent 27 years of his life in prison. 27 years! Talk about belief and conviction.
  • He was on the U.S. terror watch list: Mandela wasn’t removed from the U.S. terror watch list until 2008 — at age 89. He and other members of the African National Congress were placed on it because of their militant fight against apartheid.
  • He drew his inspiration from a poem: While he was in prison, Mandela would read William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus” to fellow prisoners. The poem, about never giving up, resonated with Mandela for its lines “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”
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Dr. Leswin Laubscher, Chair of Psychology, grew up in South Africa during Mandela’s imprisonment.

In thinking about writing a story about Nelson Mandela, I wanted to hear from someone with a first-hand account of what life was like in South Africa at the time. Luckily, the person I was looking for resides at Duquesne University and within the McAnulty College of Liberal Arts.Dr. Leswin Laubscher is chair of the Psychology department here at Duquesne and grew up in South Africa. He says, “I was not quite prepared for the personal way in which I experienced his (Mandela’s) death, but then upon reflection, how could it not – mythic battles of the gods were also played out on my front porch, and the hopes and frustrations of the day, the everyday and immediate hopes and frustrations were so closely linked and allied to his name and presence and absence.” He also recalls this personal anecdote about Mandela. “I was right there when he was released, at the gates of Victor Verster prison when he walked out.”

That eight year old boy, who really didn’t understand the significance of Mandela’s release from prison now understands.

A special thanks to CNN and BloombergNews for information for this story.


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