Google remembers Nelson Mandela with thoughtful Doodle

In honor of Nelson Mandela International Day, the Google homepage features an illustration that commemorates the struggle and achievement of the man who led South Africa from apartheid to democracy and served as a model for hope around the world. 

Bernat Armangue/AP/File
Farewell messages for late South African president Nelson Mandela are written over a panel in a shopping mall in Johannesburg, South Africa, Dec. 13, 2013.

Users typing in a search on Google's homepage Friday found an illustration of Nelson Mandela smiling back at them,

As the first black president of South Africa, who fought against the country's system of enforced racial segregation known as apartheid, Mr. Mandela stood as an international symbol of hope and freedom. 

In recognition of Nelson Mandela International Day, a day of service marked in honor of his birthday, a doodle commemorating Mandela's life and struggle is sitting in place of the usual colorful Google logo. 

The doodle's interactive element provides a virtual path through Mandela's journey. As users click their way through different slides with images that represent important markers in his life – homes representing the village where he was born, Mandela reading in a prison cell as testament to his 27-year imprisonment – Mandela's inspirational quotations display on each new page. 

"No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin or his background or his religion," reads the first slide, the words layered over a picture of a village. 

"Education is the most powerful weapon which we can use to change the world," reads the slide featuring Mandela reading in prison. 

And, finally, "The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall," reads the last slide in the graphic.

Mandela died December 2013. His legacy as a man who devoted his life to resisting a racist regime to achieve peace and equality in his own country placed him in line with noted twentieth-century figures such a Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. 

"As a moral and spiritual leader, Mandela is unparalleled," Kenyan author Billy Kahora, who lived in South Africa from 1997 to 2004, told The Monitor at the time of Mandela's passing. "He showed that as a leader, you must be bigger than yourself."

Mandela was born with the given name Rolihlahla Mandela – meaning "troublemaker" – in July 1918 in the village of Mvezo. Coming from a royal family, many who knew him have attributed Mandela's lifelong confidence and stubbornness to this lineage. 

Mandela launched himself onto the African stage in 1962 with a speech delivered before the Pan-African Freedom Movement, a conference of African nationalist leaders. As a result of his guerrilla tactics in resisting apartheid, he was branded a terrorist, and in June 1964 was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment. Prior to his conviction, at what became known as the Rivonia Trial, he delivered the 'Speech from the Dock.' Words from that speech became synonymous with his struggle for African unity and equality. 

"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," he famously said

At the age of 44, he began his 27-year prison sentence. During this time, Mandela shifted tactics, rejecting the militancy he had embraced earlier in his life. He became a leader among the prison population, championing more peaceful strategies of living alongside whites. He even learned the Afrikaans language, spoken by the dominant whites in South Africa.

But it was outside of the prison walls where Mandela became viewed as a symbol of African liberation. His political imprisonment galvanized support around the world, from chants of "Free Nelson Mandela" in Britain to rallies on college campuses in the US, fueled by students who gathered in support of US trade sanctions against South Africa, with the aim of ending the racist apartheid regime. 

Released from prison, Mandela was elected the nation's first black president in 1994. 

"Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world," he stated in his swearing-in ceremony for the presidency.

While Mandela was unable to deliver on much of the promise and anticipation felt by many of his fellow Africans – and the world – his government established South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was designed to address human rights abuses committed during the apartheid era and further the cause of reconciliation. He also saw success in facilitating peace talks to help end conflicts in African nations, including a domestic dispute in Angola.

In what was seen as an important symbolic gesture, Mandela stepped down after only one term in office, subsequently assuming the role of South Africa's elder statesmen. From that position, and given the immense respect accorded to him on the world stage, he helped advise on issues of human rights around the globe, weighing in on conflicts plaguing the African continent as well as focusing much needed attention on issues of HIV/AIDS on the continent. 

As many have noted, Mandela's iconic stature stems mainly from his work undertaken before and after his time in office, not from his term as president. 

Still, Mandela's significant contributions to the world are widely remembered and cherished. 

In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared July 18, Mandela's birthday, a day to celebrate his contributions to service, conflict resolution, and the protection of human rights. In recognition of his birthday, The Nelson Mandela foundation tweeted: 

It is testament to the fact that Mandela's legacy continues to inspire people to action around the world today. 

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