The Spirit of Nelson Mandela in the Wisconsin Capitol Rotunda

Nelson Mandela may not have set foot in the Wisconsin Capitol building, but his spirit has infused its grand rotunda nonetheless. President Obama's tribute to Mandela reminded me of the South Africa divestiture teach-ins I attended in the capitol rotunda in Madison in the early 1980's. Obama's first political act was a protest against apartheid. The Madison teach-ins weren’t my first political act, but they mark an important moment. The divestiture movement pressured the University of Wisconsin to cut all economic investments in companies linked to apartheid. The issue drew a clear line from my own privilege as a UW student to the suffering of others. The personal is political.

The Madison capitol rotunda is grand, uplifting and inspiring. In tribute to Mandela, I share some of my views of this striking space.

Of Mandela, Obama said.

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set: to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

The Capitol rotunda is a fitting space to contemplate our highest ideals, and to make our commitment to uphold them throughout our lives.


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