Wichitans remember Nelson Mandela

Published On: Dec 05 2013 09:42:25 PM CST   Updated On: Dec 05 2013 10:27:37 PM CST

Imagine going to Africa for the first time to help with a monumental election in South Africa and getting to hear Nelson Mandela speak in person. Wichita attorney Barbara James knows exactly how that feels. "I knew I was going to do the monitoring but I had no idea that I would get the opportunity to actually go to the inauguration itself," said James.

James went to South Africa in 1994 and worked as an informal monitor for the first all-races election. A vote that made Mandela president. For her efforts, James was invited to attend the inauguration. "I'm kind of like speechless thinking about it right now, but it was probably one of the most awesome experiences that I've ever had," she said.

She says it is a memory of a moment in time that changed lives worldwide. "Even after 27 years in prison, he still came out and did glorious things. Still had energy. So we don't have any reason to whine. Whatever knocks us down, just dust ourselves off, get up and keep on," said James.

In every state, every country, every continent around the world, people remember Mandela as an inspiration to all of mankind. "He was our father figure. I mean, no matter what race you are, what gender, everyone looked up to him like he was our father," said Wichita State student Calvin Pearson.

Pearson came to Kansas from his home in South Africa to golf at WSU. He cannot believe the amount of love Americans are showing for a president who served on the other side of the world. "I knew some people would obviously know him and knew what he stood for, but to see this many people it's surprising and it's good," said Pearson.

Pearson and James both know first hand the impact Mandela made. "He was such a great guy. I loved him. So, I'll definitely remember this day for the rest of my life," said Pearson.

"Job well done, Madiba. Take your peaceful rest. You deserve it," said James.