A civil rights leader has passed.
Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday. He was 95.
The South African president, Jacob Zuma, announced Mr. Mandela’s death.
Mr. Mandela had long declared he wanted a quiet exit, but the time he spent in a Pretoria hospital in recent months was a clamor of quarreling family, hungry news media, spotlight-seeking politicians and a national outpouring of affection and loss. The vigil even eclipsed a recent visit by President Obama, who paid homage to Mr. Mandela but decided not to intrude on the privacy of a dying man he considered his hero.
Mr. Mandela will be buried, according to his wishes, in the village of Qunu, where he grew up. The exhumed remains of three of his children were reinterred there in early July under a court order, resolving a family squabble that had played out in the news media.
Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty to the liberation underground to a prison rock quarry to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. And then, when his first term of office was up, unlike so many of the successful revolutionaries he regarded as kindred spirits, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.
The question most often asked about Mr. Mandela was how, after whites had systematically humiliated his people, tortured and murdered many of his friends, and cast him into prison for 27 years, he could be so evidently free of spite.
The government he formed when he finally won the chance was an improbable fusion of races and beliefs, including many of his former oppressors. When he became president, he invited one of his white wardens to the inauguration. Mr. Mandela overcame a personal mistrust bordering on loathing to share both power and a Nobel Peace Prize with the white president who preceded him, F. W. de Klerk.
Reactions via CNN:
President Barack Obama:
“Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real. He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages.”
Secretary of State John Kerry:
“Nelson Mandela was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation and knew the future demands we move beyond the past. He gave everything he had to heal his country and lead it back into the community of nations, including insisting on relinquishing his office and ensuring there would be a peaceful transfer of power. Today, people all around the world who yearn for democracy look to Mandela’s nation and its democratic Constitution as a hopeful example of what is possible.”
Former President George W. Bush:
“Laura and I join the people of South Africa and the world in celebrating the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathy to President Mandela’s family and to the citizens of the nation he loved.”
Former President Bill Clinton:
“Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. And Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend.”
“His story will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Graça and his family and to the people of South Africa. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived. He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life’s real victories must be shared.”
Former President George H. W. Bush:
“Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know. As President, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment – setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all. He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen.”
Former Vice President Al Gore:
“We should take a moment today to bow our heads and pay our respects to an extraordinarily courageous man who truly changed the world for the better and, in the process, inspired us all.”
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
“Throughout history, a few special people have been able to transcend differences and change the world for the better. Nelson Mandela was one of those people who had a vision for human rights and equality. Those beliefs made him the father of multi ethnic democracy in South Africa. All freedom loving people will miss him but we will never forget his sacrifice and his achievements. My prayers and my thoughts are with him and with the people of South Africa.”
Former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell:
“After 27 years in prison he was asked upon release if he was bitter, if he wanted to get even with his jailers or oppressors. His simple, but profound answer, was, “If I felt that way I would still be in jail.” His jailers sat in the front row at his inauguration. I will never forget him, nor will the world. My wife and I offer out deepest condolences to his family and the people of South Africa. His spirit lives on.”
National Security Advisor Susan Rice:
“Even as we mourn, we remember how privileged the world was to witness the transformation he wrought by changing minds and hearts. He was apartheid’s captive but never its prisoner, and he rid the world of one of history’s foulest evils by hewing to universal principles for which he hoped to live but was prepared to die. Let us celebrate Madiba’s life by rededicating ourselves to the values and hopes he embodied: reconciliation and justice, freedom and equality, democracy and human rights, an honest reckoning with the past and an unflinching insistence on embracing our common humanity.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron:
“Mandela was not just a hero of our time but of all times… a man that through his dignity has inspired millions.”
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell:
“Elaine and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, a man whose skillful guidance of South Africa following the end of the Apartheid regime made him one of the great statesmen of our time and a global symbol of reconciliation. ‘Madiba’s’ patience through imprisonment and insistence on unity over vengeance in the delicate period in which he served stand as a permanent reminder to the world of the value of perseverance and the positive influence one good man or woman can have over the course of human affairs. The world mourns this great leader. May his passing lead to a deeper commitment to reconciliation around the world.”
In a way, Mandela was both the “George Washington” and “Abraham Lincoln” of his country. We're so fortunate to have lived in his time.
— Senator Harry Reid (@SenatorReid) December 5, 2013
House Speaker John Boehner:
“Nelson Mandela was an unrelenting voice for democracy and his ‘long walk to freedom’ showed an enduring faith in God and respect for human dignity. His perseverance in fighting the apartheid system will continue to inspire future generations. Mandela led his countrymen through times of epic change with a quiet moral authority that directed his own path from prisoner to president. He passes this world as a champion of peace and racial harmony. I send condolences to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa.”
May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope. pic.twitter.com/Bgv5TpayBW
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) December 5, 2013
2008 Republican presidential nominee and Sen. John McCain of Arizona:
“It is hard not to be in awe of Nelson Mandela. His character is awe-inspiring – his courage, resilience, generosity, selflessness, wisdom. History offers few examples of people who were as devoted or sacrificed more for a cause greater than their self-interest than Nelson Mandela…To forgive when you have been wronged, when you have suffered unjustly at the hands of others, is a hard thing to do. But it is, as Nelson Mandela knew, the most liberating action a person can take. For nations, too, if they are to build a future greater than their history.”
Few people in the history of the world have had a greater impact than President Mandela. May God bless him and his family.
— Jason Chaffetz (@jasoninthehouse) December 5, 2013
We mourn the loss of Nelson Mandela and offer our condolences to his family and the people of South Africa. http://t.co/lotgBrZw0m
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) December 5, 2013
Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina:
“Nelson Mandela was a transformational figure, a man who truly changed the world. He walked a long road to freedom and embraced the fundamental human belief in equality. After his release from prison, his tireless work to reconcile a nation torn apart by centuries of tension and hostility made him one of history’s greatest statesmen. All freedom-loving people mourn his passing.”
One of the great honors of my life was shaking hands w Nelson Mandela years ago; father of a modern nation, inspiration to the oppressed
— Jared Polis (@jaredpolis) December 5, 2013
Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California:
“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family, and the people of South Africa. His legacy will live on forever in how we live our lives and fight for freedom and justice in a multi-racial society. We must pause and remember Madiba in his greatness; he used his life not for himself, but for the good of his country and the good of the world, and his spirit will live on.”
Nelson Mandela changed the world for the better. I was honored to meet him in 2000, and like many, I was moved by his dedication to freedom.
— Paul Ryan (@PRyan) December 5, 2013
Just learned of the death of Nelson Mandela. One of the truly great ones is gone.
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 5, 2013
Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York:
“The world lost a selfless leader who spent his life fighting for justice. Madiba’s powerful legacy and shining example of courage and love will continue to inspire countless generations.”
Nelson Mandela taught us about humanity in the face of inhumanity, & left an unjust world a more just place. May he rest in peace.
— Sen. Robert Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) December 5, 2013
Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas:
“May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope. May it be a comfort to his family, to his friends and loved ones, to the people of South Africa that so many mourn the loss of this extraordinary man and incredible leader at this sad time.”
Prayers for the Mandela family and those mourning in South Africa.
— Rep. Scott Rigell (@RepScottRigell) December 5, 2013
— Colleen Hanabusa (@ColleenHanabusa) December 5, 2013
Saddened by the passing of Nelson #Mandela. He was, and always will be, an inspiration to the world.
— Rep. Joe Crowley (@repjoecrowley) December 5, 2013
I am deeply saddened to learn that Nelson Mandela has passed. He was a remarkable man who leaves a lasting and powerful legacy.
— Gwen Moore (@RepGwenMoore) December 5, 2013
Just learned that Nelson Mandela, 95, has gone to his reward. Awesome, wonderful man.
— Rep. Keith Ellison (@keithellison) December 5, 2013
2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, via Facebook:
“In the modern age, Nelson Mandela will be remembered as an unsurpassed healer of human hearts. By dint of his character, sacrifice, vision and abounding love, he won a revolution without shedding blood, founded a peaceful nation in a land of turmoil, and personified principle in a world searching for integrity.”
Former United States Ambassador to United Nations Andrew Young to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer
“His spiritual presence was far more important than his physical suffering. It seemed as though the more he suffered, the stronger he became spiritually…The one thing that impressed me always about South Africa was that he was not the only one had this spirit. There was a spirit of reconciliation that was a part of the body politic of southern Africa and I think we can build on that in the world.”
Democratic San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, via Facebook:
“Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela. You were a once-in-a-century leader whose teachings about tolerance and acceptance inspired our common humanity.”
New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio:
“We live in a far better world today because of the life and work of Nelson Mandela. He met hatred with reason, intolerance with resolve… Just months after being released from 27 years of political imprisonment, Nelson Mandela came here to New York City. I will never forget hearing his words at Yankee Stadium, where he told New Yorkers, ‘You the people, never abandoned us.’ We came to believe in his fight for justice and democracy as if it were our own. Our values and activism helped us work toward justice in South Africa, and thereafter in many other parts of the world.”
Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio:
“With incomparable courage, President Mandela overcame violent persecution for his belief that every individual deserved to live in a society where injustice would not be tolerated…His vision for justice in South Africa reflected the vision Members of CBC had for America, and his story empowered African Americans and people of all races to stand up for justice on behalf our brothers and sisters worldwide.”
And now, my thoughts:
Nelson Mandela stood for the institutionalised discrimination in South Africa. My feelings can be summed up in this music video:
Rest in peace, sir. You have more than earned it.