Quad City professor reflects on Nelson Mandela’s influence

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Across the world, people are paying tribute to Nelson Mandela who passed away on Thursday, December 5th, 2013 at the age of 95.

In the Quad Cities, he inspired at least one man who grew up in Africa.

Dr. Peter Chege says he learned about Mandela in school and teachers about him now. The Black Hawk College Biology Professor spoke to News 8 on Friday, December 6th, 2013 about the role Mandela plays in his own life.

"One thing he kept emphasizing is that people can take away property from you, but they cannot take away the knowledge you have," Dr. Chege said. "I emphasize that to my students that knowledge is power and it can take you places."

Dr. Chege says it was Mandela's story that inspired him to become an educator.

"He was in jail for about 27 years and he was able to come out of that and spring back to a very productive life," Dr. Chege said. "I think that was very encouraging and it was a life well lived."

Dr. Chege said he's sad that Mandela died, but he's also encouraged by the legacy the anti-apartheid leader, former South African president, and Nobel Peace Prize winner leaves behind.

"He's left an indelible mark in the history of the world, not just South Africa."

That mark has showed others, like Dr. Chege who moved here in 2001, to see the world in a different way.

"He has inspired me and a lot of people to learn that we are better off looking at our strengths and not our weaknesses, our similarities and not our differences," Dr. Chege said.

It's a lesson the professor says he will keep learning and teaching to keep Mandela's message and memory alive.

Mandela's funeral is scheduled for December 15th. President Barack Obama says he will be at the funeral services and in the meantime has order flags to be flown at half-staff.