Obama Reflects On Life And Legacy Of Nelson Mandela

Published on 10 December 2013

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by Merle David Kellerhals Jr.


Johannesburg, South Africa

President Obama Waves To The Crowd At The Memorial Service For Nelson Mandela
President Obama Waves To The Crowd At The Memorial Service For Nelson Mandela

President Obama praised the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela, who struggled to bring social justice and democracy to his beloved nation and influenced the world in ways few other leaders achieve.

“Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century,” Obama said of Mandela at a memorial service in Johannesburg, South Africa, December 10.

Obama compared Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years by the former apartheid government, to some of the greatest social justice advocates of the 19th and 20th centuries.

“Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement — a movement that at its start had little prospect for success. Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice,” Obama said.

“He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would, like Abraham Lincoln, hold his country together when it threatened to break apart,” Obama said.

Mandela, Obama said, like the men who founded the United States, would build a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future South African generations and embrace democracy and the rule of law. Mandela became the first elected black president of South Africa in 1994 as the apartheid era ended.

Mandela taught the world the power of action, the power of ideas, the importance of reason and arguments, the need to study those you agree with and those you don’t, Obama said. And Mandela understood that ideas cannot be constrained by a prison’s walls nor be extinguished by a sniper’s bullet. Mandela also fully understood the power of the human spirit.

“There is a word in South Africa — Ubuntu — a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye, that there is oneness to humanity, that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others and caring for those around us,” Obama said.

First lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and former President Jimmy Carter also attended the memorial service.

Mandela died December 5 at his Johannesburg home surrounded by his family. He was 95. A state funeral will be held December 15 in Mandela’s ancestral village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape province.



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Posted 2013-12-10 16:05:00