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K-State Today

July 18, 2016

Mandela Washington Fellows observe Mandela Day with visit to the Capitol

Submitted by Theo Stavropoulos

The Mandela Washington Fellows hosted by Kansas State University's Staley School of Leadership Studies will travel to the capital city of Topeka July 18 in observance of Mandela Day.

As part of a six-week Civic Leadership Institute, these 24 young leaders from Sub-Saharan Africa have been engaged in cultural exchange and leadership development through the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. Each of the fellows are activists and leaders in their home communities and have been recognized for their accomplishments in promoting innovation and positive change in their organizations, institutions, communities and countries across a diverse array of issues.

Nelson Mandela International Day was established by a unanimous decision of the United Nations General Assembly on July 18, 2009 in recognition of Nelson Mandela's birthday. The celebration was inspired by a speech Mandela gave one year earlier, in which he issued a call for the next generation of leaders to take on social injustice with the famous words, "it is in your hands now." In addition to a remembrance of the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, Mandela Day is an opportunity to honor his life's work through actions that contribute to positive change for the common good.

In recognition of Mandela Day, the Mandela Washington Fellows — at all 40 institutes around the U.S. — will participate in a unique service or engagement opportunity based on the theme of their cohort and the regional concerns of the host institutions. The institute at the Staley School is focused on Civic Leadership and the development of the next generation of community leaders in Africa. The fellows' trip to Topeka will be an opportunity to observe and engage with government systems at the state level.

During their visit, the Mandela Washington Fellows will receive a guided tour of the State Capitol Building from the Kansas Historical Society. They also will tour the Kansas Judicial Center and discuss the process and function of the judicial branch of government with a judge from the Kansas Court of Appeals.

Throughout the Civic Leadership Institute at the Staley School, fellows have surfaced and analyzed issues related to the government systems at work within their home countries and communities. These issues have ranged from voting rights to governmental respect for human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of the press. At the institute, they have taken part in critical thinking and dialogue that will help them employ strategies to effectively engage in meaningful change around the issues they are working to address.

Through engagement with the Manhattan City Commission, members of the Kansas Legislature, this trip to Topeka, and the concluding Presidential Summit in Washington, D.C., the Mandela Washington Fellows will leave with new understanding and experiences with nearly every level of government. Studying and observing governmental and political structures at work in the U.S. provides valuable insight for the fellows into the federalist system and the process through which citizens interface with these structures to advocate for change.