Soweto and Thank You, Eh!
Today is the 40th anniversary of the Soweto Uprising that may have signaled the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa. It also the day on which President Reagan bestowed the Congressional Medal Gold Medal on Ken Taylor, the Canadian Ambassador to Iran who helped rescue six Americans.
Soweto – The Beginning of the End of Apartheid
The Soweto Uprising was a series of protests led by high school students in South Africa that began on the morning of 16 June 1976 in response to the introduction of the Afrikaans language as the medium of instruction in local schools. Approximately 20,000 students participated in the protests, which was met with gunfire by police and as many as 700 children were killed.
The government would later target and kill one of the organizers of the protest – Steve Biko . His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people, including numerous ambassadors and other diplomats from the United States and Western Europe. His death inspired the 1980 song “Biko” by Peter Gabriel and the 1987 film “Cry Freedom”. Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 and sworn in as President four years later.
Recognizing Canadian Courage
President Ronald Reagan awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Ken Taylor, the former Canadian ambassador to Iran who spearheaded the effort to help six Americans escape Iran during the hostage crisis. The award is given to those who
have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement.
Taylor was the first foreigner to receive the award and his efforts were depicted in the Academy Award Winning film “Argo”. Taylor died of cancer last year.