Nelson Mandela

2007 Delta Prize Recipient

headshot of Nelson Mandela

The Delta Prize for Global Understanding was established to recognize individuals whose extraordinary ability to promote fruitful communication has rendered their region of the world a more peaceful place. The University of Georgia and Delta Air Lines are pleased to present the Delta Prize to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, first president of South Africa.

We honor Nelson Mandela for his leadership in ending apartheid, facilitating a peaceful transition to democracy, and making possible interracial understanding in South Africa. Not only has his work helped bring peace to South Africa, but it has also served as a model for bringing peace to other parts of the world.

Nelson Mandela was born in 1918 in a village near Mthatha in the Eastern Cape of the country known then as the Union of South Africa. While studying in Johannesburg, in the early 1940s, he became a leader of the African National Congress Youth League and later the ANC. For his protests against apartheid and his political actions, he was incarcerated, ultimately, for a period of twenty-seven years.

In one of his court trials, Nelson Mandela made a now-famous statement that inspired all who opposed apartheid:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

In 1990, Mandela was released from prison at the age of 71. In 1994, he was elected president of the Republic of South Africa, in the nation’s first all-race elections.

The major challenge of the twenty-first century will be world-wide integration—that is, the development of harmonious relationships among peoples of different colors, ethnicities, and religions. Now and in the future, we will need more leaders like Nelson Mandela to make peace between societies that have long feared, distrusted, and hated each other. We will need more statesmen like Nelson Mandela to bring about global understanding.

In his acceptance speech for the Noble Peace Prize in 1993, Nelson Mandela spoke of his hope that South Africa would be a “microcosm of the new world that is striving to be born.”

This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression, and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.

Delta Air Lines and the University of Georgia share this hope for a more peaceful global community. It is for his vision and his selfless actions on behalf of intercultural understanding that we give the 2007 Delta Prize to Nelson Mandela.