From RI President Ron D. Burton


Rotary members worldwide are deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela, a man who overcame unimaginable hardships to emerge as one of the greatest leaders of our time — and one of our greatest humanitarians.

Mr. Mandela shared Rotary’s commitment to humanitarian service and world peace, and twice as President of South Africa accepted Rotary recognition for his commitment to helping those in need, especially the children of southern Africa. In 1995, President Mandela received the Rotary International Award of Honor. Two years later, he accepted Rotary’s highest award, the Rotary Award for World Understanding. In true fashion, he donated the $100,000 grant accompanying the award to the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund.

Rotary is especially grateful for his strong support of the global effort to eradicate the crippling disease polio, our organizaton’s highest priority. Mr. Mandela himself helped administer oral polio vaccine to the children of South Africa, which has been declared polio-free.

Our deepest condolences go to Mr. Mandela’s family, to his millions of admirers worldwide, and especially to the People of South Africa, including the country’s Rotary members, who knew him as a friend and staunch supporter of humanitarian service.

Despite this great loss, Mr. Mandela’s legacy of courage, determination, and commitment will forever inspire us to move forward in our effort to achieve a better, more peaceful world.

Ron D. Burton

President, Rotary International



Nelson Mandela was one of the 20th century’s iconic symbols of freedom and equality. He was a courageous achiever and he influenced so many people not only in South Africa, but worldwide.

To millions, he was a leader, a mentor and a hero. He remained a father figure for a country going through wrenching economic and political change.

He was the father of the nation and his charitable cause for children was recognized globally. His love for children resulted in the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund being formed. Rotary International has worked with the Children’s Fund for many years and we share the same values.

Past Rotary International Director (PRID) Tony Serrano from Johannesburg  presented him with the Rotary International Award of Honor in May 1995. The award is granted to deserving individuals including heads of state. Up to five awards may be granted each Rotary year by the Rotary International president. When Past Rotary International Director PRID Tony Serrano met Madiba, he recognized and acknowledged with pride, the excellent humanitarian work that Rotary International undertakes worldwide.

There was more than one award presented to Madiba by Rotary International. The Rotary Award for World Understanding was presented to Nelson Mandela’s representative in Glasgow on his behalf,  during the Rotary International Convention in June 1997. Madiba however acknowledged the award via a videotape he prepared. He was chosen because of his significant contributions to world peace, human rights and freedom.

The award carried a grant of US$ 100,000 for contribution to a charitable project and Madiba chose the Nelson Mandela’s Children’s Fund.

Rotarians greatly admired his effective work for peace and unity in the African continent, and deeply appreciated his strong support of the eradication of polio throughout Africa.

Rotary International’s motto is “Service Above Self’ and Madiba certainly epitomized this.  The 1,2 million Rotary members in more than 200 countries are volunteers who value ‘Humanity in Motion’  tackling the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary members have taken many leaves out of Madiba’s book!

We all remembered his inaugural speech when he mentioned that he stood before us not as a prophet, but as a service to the nation. He was a leader of service.

As one of the world’s most respected humanitarians, we salute you Madiba. We admire and respect you for your achievements. You were a healer and a leader and you will be remembered as one of the world’s renowned legends. You leave behind a legacy – one that no one will ever forget!

May he rest in peace.

Rotary Clubs in Southern Africa