Alan, Chief Financial Officer, has spent 3 years with PetSmart and shares what Nelson Mandela Day means to him.
The Belonging Program’s “I Belong” Series harnesses the power of empathy through storytelling. This series is intended to give associates a greater sense of understanding, a bridge to gain new perspective, and a way to build connection to each other. To learn more about the “I Belong” Series or to submit your stories, please visit our new Belonging Fetch Page.
Each year, the Nelson Mandela International Day (Mandela Day) is held on July 18 to commemorate Mr. Mandela's birthday and to remember his achievements in working toward conflict resolution, democracy, human rights, peace, and reconciliation.
There's a quote by Nelson Mandela that resonates with me:
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
For me, Mandela Day is a day for me to reflect on the life and struggles of, arguably, the greatest man of my generation. However, this year, Mandela Day has taken on a whole new meaning.
I was born and raised in South Africa during the Apartheid era and, until I immigrated to the United States, I lived a privileged life as a white person in South Africa. The white, racist government tried to suppress any news about the resistance and, in many cases, painted leaders like Nelson Mandela as terrorists. So for me, it wasn’t until I moved to America as a teenager that I was able to truly educate myself on what was going on in South Africa and understand who Nelson Mandela really was and what he stood for.
I have read several books about Mr. Mandela and have always marveled at how a man who was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years made it his mission to unite a country by forgiving the oppressors and encouraging reconciliation. Today, South Africa, like many other countries in Africa and other parts of the world, has its share of challenges; but thanks to Nelson Mandela, it has become the democratic country known as the “Rainbow Nation” with all citizens, irrespective of race, enjoying equal rights and working together to address its challenges.
None of the afore-mentioned has been easy. Nelson Mandela’s work and contributions were extremely challenging and were met with significant resistance from many opposition parties. And diversity work isn’t always easy either. Still, Mr. Mandela taught me that it is indeed possible to incite change—no matter the magnitude—amidst some of the most challenging circumstances.
Across the globe, in every country and every industry, we are all facing varying degrees of disruption to our lives due to the current pandemic and civil unrest. While this is in many ways a shared experience, it is also a deeply individual one. In uncertain and challenging times like these, creating a sense of belonging is more important than ever. It’s this desire to build belonging that was one of the things that attracted me to PetSmart and makes me so proud to work here. This initiative inspires me to be a strong ally and advocate for our diversity and inclusion efforts.