Today is Nelson Mandela’s 93rd birthday, which seems like as good a reason as any to tell this story.
Mandela’s first experience in political organizing didn’t come in the anti-apartheid movement. It came in student government at his undergraduate college, the University of Fort Hare.
In his senior year, Mandela was nominated for Fort Hare’s Student Representative Council, a six-member student government. But in a mass meeting shortly before the elections, the student body of the college voted to boycott, citing the poor quality of the food on campus and the weakness of the SRC itself.
Twenty-five students out of the campus of 150 broke the boycott and voted in the election, and Mandela was elected. He and the rest of the SRC-elect refused to take their seats. Another election was held, a similar number of students voted, and Mandela again refused to serve. Mandela again refused to serve, and was expelled for his protest. He would go on to finish his undergraduate education by correspondence at another university.