LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Nelson Mandela inspired college students across California – and the nation – to help him fight apartheid.
In 1986, UCLA students, moved by the late South African leader’s fight for racial equality, protested the university’s investments and companies with business ties to the country.
UCLA Research Professor Dr. Edmond Keller remembers the unrest.
“There were hunger strikes here at UCLA, at Berkeley, and also at Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, and throughout the whole UC system,” Keller said.
UCLA Research Professor Dr. Ned Alpers said the movement was driven by solidarity.
“There was a terrific sense of student empowerment in a way that I had never seen before at UCLA,” Alpers said.
The protests also affected students at Occidental College of Los Angeles, including a young man named Barack Obama.
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life,” the president said at a press conference Thursday following news Mandela had passed away at age 95.
“My very first political action – the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics – was a protest against apartheid,” Obama said.
Dr. Keller hopes Mandela’s legacy of peace will live on through generations of students, and that those who participated in the movement nearly three decades ago will share their stories.
“We have to have a sense of history. If we don’t, we will make the same mistakes that were made by people that came before us,” he said (sic).