South Africa's first black president, Nelson Mandela, may be leaving the hospital and celebrating his 95th birthday from home on Thursday.
Mandela, who became South Africa's first black president in 1994, fought to end apartheid for 67 years, 27 which were spent in prison. On June 8, he was hospitalized due to recurring lung infections that developed during his 27 years in prison, and three weeks ago he seemed at death's door. The media even reported that Mandela had fallen into a "permanent vegetative state" and his family had been advised to switch off his life support. As of Wednesday, on the eve of his 95th birthday, Mandela's health is not only in stable condition, but he may be leaving the hospital soon to celebrate his 95th birthday from home.
While Mandela remains in critical condition, his health has improved dramatically. According to his daughter Zindzi Mandela, he has been watching television with his headphones on in the hospital and regaining energy and strength. In an interview with Sky TV, Zindzi said, "He gave us a huge smile and raised his hand"; although he is still unable to speak. "He responds with his eyes and his hands."
Today, celebrities around the world are voicing their appreciation for Mandela and preparing to celebrate Mandela Day tomorrow. Mandela explained in a video clip that Mandela Day is much more than just his birthday. It is "a day devoted to service. It is our hope that people will dedicate their time and effort to improve the conditions within their own community."
South Africans have been preparing a huge birthday celebration for him, filled with singing, a big birthday card, and artistic works. Many have also prepared to donate 67 minutes of their day to community service, one for each year that Mandela gave to South Africans.
Mandela has been an inspiration to individuals around the world and continues to be an inspiration even as he is hospitalized. Since his hospitalization in early June, he has received thousands of flowers and letters thanking him for his strength and commitment to fighting for racial equality. Families have visited him at the hospital to pray, read letters, sing songs, and talk to him. And this week, with reports of his release from the hospital, Mandela once again represents hope to South Africans and to the rest of the world.