Events & Speakers | Posted 29.09.2014

Politics Society: The Nelson Mandela I knew

The Stonyhurst Politics Society gathered on Thursday September 18th in the Bayley Room for the weekly lecture, although little did we know that Professor Steve Grigg was to give us a talk like no other. The title of the lecture, ‘The Nelson Mandela I knew’, was an intriguing one, and this accounted for the packed room of Stonyhurst pupils and other guests.
Previously a teacher at Stonyhurst, Professor Grigg started by outlining his departure from the teaching profession and entrance into the corporate world, where he worked for, and became Executive Vice-President of British Aerospace Systems. He also became Honorary Consul of South Africa, working extensively in a series of social-economic enhancement partnerships, spending much of his time supporting Nelson Mandela and social development in South Africa.
It was his description of his first meeting with Mandela, or ‘Madiba’, that really gripped everybody’s attention. According to Grigg it was his height that was most striking, along with his innate ability to charm everybody in the room. In response to the question ‘Do you think it was his power or his charisma that enabled him to enchant people in this way?’, Grigg answered, ‘Probably both’. It was personal insights such as these that made this talk such a special and rare experience.
Professor Grigg showed us many pictures of his time spent in South Africa, although the most remarkable ones were of Nelson Mandela’s private funeral, proving the closeness and strength of the relationship between Mandela and Grigg.
The end of the talk, which had been remarkable in itself, proved to be emotional, as Professor Grigg played the song Hope by Siphiwo Ntshebe. Ntshebe was personally selected by Mandela to sing at the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup; however, he tragically died just a few days before he was due to perform.
The track contains an extract of Mandela speaking over the music, and his words sum up the reason why the strong international relationships Professor Steve Grigg had described are so crucial: The generosity of the human spirit can overcome all adversity. Through compassion and caring, we can create hope.

Ruth Foulds (Rhetoric)