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Drama for Life’s Build a President takes off!

- By Wits University

 Drama for Life's Build a President Project will partner with Speak Truth to Power at the R. F. Kennedy Center for Human Rights.

Building on Nelson Mandela’s legacy to enhance leadership, Build a President is a Social Change Project that encourages people to Speak Truth to Power.

Build a President is a Drama for Life Social Media Change Project. The project is endorsed as an official Mandela Day Project, and builds upon President Nelson Mandela’s legacy to enhance democratic leadership. Inspired by the partnership, Build a President aims to engage all people, particularly the people of South Africa, in questions that impact the quality, value and well-being of South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

It asks every individual what they would do if they had to become President of South Africa. It gets people to think about their own sense of agency, democratic responsibility and voice. It raises questions about critical national, provincial, local and community-based issues within a human rights and social justice context.

Build a President will draw from the photographic exhibition of Speak Truth to Power. Based on the book Speak Truth to Power Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World, by Kerry Kennedy, the photo exhibition, with photographs taken by Pulitzer Prize Winning photographer Eddie Adams, profiles 50 human rights defenders from nearly 40 countries and five continents, whose lives are filled with extraordinary feats of bravery.

With the intention of bringing the international spotlight to violations and broaden the community of those who know and care about the individuals portrayed in the exhibition, it is also the basis of the work that is done by Speak Truth to Power – a multi-faceted global initiative that uses the experience of these courageous defenders to educate students about human rights, and urge them to take action.

Through the Speak Truth to Power defender curriculum, play (written by Ariel Dorfman and based on Kerry Kennedy’s book), music and video contests, students are able to self-identify as human rights defenders and take on a more active role in the work of creating a more just and peaceful world.

The Build a President photographic documentation – a socio-political ethnography inspired by Speak Truth to Power and Humans of New York – serves to witness each and every individual.

Through the photographs, in black and white, we get to meet ordinary South Africans from all walks of life, in work places, universities, schools, urban and rural communities, streets and meetings, and in doing so, we get to witness that all people living in South Africa have a voice, a vision and a sense of what it means to live in a young, fragile democracy. Build a President affirms that all people in South Africa want to be heard, respected and acknowledged.

Build a President specifically aims to enhance youth leadership through Drama for Life interventions, workshops and Nelson Mandela Community Dialogues. Build a President provides the space for children, adolescents and young adults to imagine a world through their individual and collective action. Build a President, through Facebook, Twitter and applied drama, drama education and drama therapy community dialogue interventions, is built on a tradition of human rights and social justice values inspired and advocated by Nelson Mandela.

We ask you to imagine what you would change if you became president today? In this way Build a President enhances Drama for Life’s commitment toward social transformation through dialogue.

Build a President is photographed by Evans Mathibe and directed by Warren Nebe. For more information, visit, the Facebook page or Twitter: @buildapresident, #BuildaPresident #SpeakTruthToPower #BuildaNation #DramaforLife

For more information on Speak Truth to Power and their programmes, visit