One of the greatest pleasures of teaching at Luther is hearing from our grads. For me this is especially true when I hear from a grad volunteering in South Africa, a country I love and study and take students to on J-term—eight times since 1998. I'm about to go there again in spring 2014 on a sabbatical where I'll work with colleagues at the U of Witwatersand in Johannesburg and scout for J-term #9 (2015).
Hearing from grads in English is also a pleasure because they can WRITE. When they experience something they know how to put it into words. So it was a special pleasure to hear recently from Danielle Koch, a 2012 Luther grad and English major, who is in the Peace Corps in South Africa, where she is helping with community-building projects in the rural north where people speak Venda, one of the country's 11 official languages (and now Danielle does too). She thus had the good fortune to be in South Africa at the time of the passing of Nelson Mandela. I'd like to share some of Danielle's thoughts about the man they call "Madiba":
"Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was a living symbol for this nation. He risked everything not just to free black South Africans but to also free their white oppressors. When you are the slave master you are also imprisoned in a cell of what it means to be superior, which is a lesser evil, but remains a terrible fate. He inspired a political struggle to refuse anything less than equal rights. Yet he also preached reconciliation when the time came to come together. He was a man of the people, white, black, yellow, of every creed and every sex and tribe and every sexuality. In Mandela, you can find the Rainbow nation. This man is not just an ideal but also a symbol for what it means to live out the truth. Mandela will always be first for South Africa, and second for the world. That is how he lived and that is also how he should be remembered."
Thanks Danielle. And thanks to all Luther grads volunteering at home or abroad. You do important work and make us proud.
Martin Klammer is a professor of English and Africana studies, and is the writing director at Luther College. Klammer has spent several January terms taking students to South Africa to study literature and culture, and to lead a camp for disadvantaged children in Cape Town. Recently Martin edited and co-wrote a memoir of the life of Blanche LaGuma, an underground activist and wife of the celebrated novelist Alex LaGuma: "In the Dark With My Dress on Fire: My Life in Cape Town, London, Havana and Home Again" (Cape Town: Jacana, 2010)."