Leaders Mourn Nelson Mandela’s Death

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President Obama said he was one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life

President Barack Obama’s full statement on the death of Nelson Mandela

At his trial in 1964, Nelson Mandela closed his statement from the dock saying, “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination.  I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve.  But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

And 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.

Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa — and moved all of us.  His journey from a prisoner to a President embodied the promise that human beings — and countries — can change for the better.  His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives.  And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable.  As he once said, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life.  My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid.  I studied his words and his writings.  The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.  And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.

To Graça Machel and his family, Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathy and gratitude for sharing this extraordinary man with us.  His life’s work meant long days away from those who loved him the most.  And I only hope that the time spent with him these last few weeks brought peace and comfort to his family.

To the people of South Africa, we draw strength from the example of renewal, and reconciliation, and resilience that you made real.  A free South Africa at peace with itself — that’s an example to the world, and that’s Madiba’s legacy to the nation he loved.

We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again.  So it falls to us as best we can to forward the example that he set:  to make decisions guided not by hate, but by love; to never discount the difference that one person can make; to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice.

For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.  May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace.

Congressional Black Caucus Chair Marcia Fudge’s

Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Chair Marcia L. Fudge released the following statement on the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela:

“Today, Members of the Congressional Black Caucus mourn the loss of our friend and one of the greatest world leaders of our time. Nelson “Rolihlahla” Mandela was an extraordinary human being; a man who dedicated his entire life to the liberation of all South Africans and who united voices for freedom in every corner of the world.

“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. Through his work and sacrifices,President Mandela taught us that we are greater together than the prejudices that divide us, and that the fight for peace, equality and justice can be won.

“From the halls of Congress to the communities they represent, Members of the CBC heeded President Mandela’s call to take all necessary action to force an end to apartheid and the atrocities experienced by so many of South Africa’s people. His vision for justice in South Africa reflected the vision Members of the CBC had for America, and his story empowered African Americans and people of all races to stand up for justice on behalf of our brothers and sisters worldwide.

“Though today we grieve President Mandela’s death, the world will celebrate his life. This world will be forever changed because he lived. May we never forget the lessons Madiba taught us in his quest for freedom, ‘for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Marc H. Morial, President & CEO of the National Urban League

We Remember, Honor, and Celebrate the Extraordinary Life & Legacy of Nelson Mandela

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people.  I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.  It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” — Nelson Mandela

There are few men or women who leave such an indelible imprint and impact on the world that they are remembered, honored and celebrated by nations near and far for centuries after they depart.  There are few people for whom even all the words in every language fail to convey the magnitude and meaning of their lives.  Without a doubt in mind or heart, I know that Nelson Mandela is one among a very select few.

His dedication, perseverance, forgiveness, and purpose – his life – sparked an inextinguishable fire in the souls of freedom fighters not only in South Africa, but everywhere.  The light that he shared will forever serve as an international beacon for fairness, justice and hope for all disadvantaged, impoverished and oppressed people from every corner of the world.

Nelson Mandela gave new meaning to the word “inspiration.”  After spending 27 years of a life sentence as an apartheid regime political prisoner, he emerged, not with bitterness – but instead with a steadfast resolve to complete his life’s work.  His remarkable journey serves as an indisputable example of forgiveness in the face of persecution and triumph through tribulation.

I consider myself at once fortunate, humbled and proud to have been a part of the great work of Nelson Mandela’s life during the 1980’s here in the United States.  While attending Georgetown University Law Center in 1981, I co-led an effort to boycott the cafeteria operator because of its investments in South Africa.  During this same period, I was a member of the leadership team of the National Black Law Students Association that pushed for divestment of South African investments by U.S. companies.  Early in my career, I was arrested at the South African Embassy as part of a mass, peaceful organized protest led by Walter Fauntroy, Mary Frances Berry and Randall Robinson in support of U.S. economic sanctions against South Africa.

As co-leader of the New Orleans Anti-Apartheid Coalition, I helped to successfully advocate for the New Orleans Public Employee Pension Board’s divestment in U.S. companies who had holdings in South Africa.  When the U.S. Congress ultimately passed sanctions against South Africa, I could only hope that Nelson Mandela knew that his army now extended beyond the borders of South Africa to subsequent generations of freedom activists and advocates around the world – even in the world’s greatest democracy – helping to continue the work he started.

After the election of President Mandela, as mayor of New Orleans I signed an economic and friendship agreement in 1994 between Johannesburg and New Orleans, one of the first U.S. cities to do so.  It was an indescribable honor.  Nelson Mandela’s efforts to create a new, multi-racial democracy weren’t just an example of unwavering leadership, humanity and compassion for me, but also for the countless millions who will follow and study him as one of the world’s great leaders for centuries to come.

I often wonder if his parents knew when they named him Rolihlahla (common translation: “troublemaker”) how prophetic that was or how ironic it would be that he would grow up to be an international symbol of peacemaking.  But the “troublemaking” that Nelson Mandela undertook was of a different kind.  It was the kind that sees legislated injustice, race-based inequality and economic despair and seeks to disrupt an institutionalized system of oppression and discrimination.  It is the kind that motivates all of us in the Urban League Movement to continue to fight for opportunity parity and economic equality every day in hundreds of communities across America.

Nelson Mandela gave a voice to those who had been silenced.  He brought hope to those who had been stripped of their dreams.  He awakened a nation – and ultimately a world – to the boundless possibilities of following one’s purpose.

Today, we stand with the people of South Africa and with the international community in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela.  We remember, honor, and celebrate his extraordinary life and legacy.  The world could use a few more “Rolihlahlas.”

“Our march to freedom is irreversible. We must not allow fear to stand in our way.” — Nelson Mandela

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s statement on Mandela’s passing

“Twenty-five years ago, amid the struggle against Apartheid, I volunteered as a high school teacher in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was still in prison, and black South Africans were still denied the right to vote. I taught English, math, history and science to my students, but I knew my true work was in educating the next generation of black South African women to be ready to lead in a new South Africa. Mandela’s unrelenting strength and courage made this dream a reality for my students and their families.

Today, with his passing, we lost one of the greatest moral leaders of our time. Mandela’s legacy of struggle and leadership will be remembered along with those of Ghandi and King as among the most important toward ending government-sponsored racism throughout the world.

My heart goes out to my South African friends and all those around the world who helped bring an end to Apartheid. May we all continue to find inspiration for fighting injustice from Mandela’s dedication to freedom, equality, and forgiveness.”

The NAACP’s statement on Nelson Mandela’s passing:

Roslyn Brock, Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors:

“The Honorable Nelson Mandela embodied the hopes, dreams, aspirations and values of all who seek justice against tremendous odds. He responded to unfathomable violence with peace and courage, and in doing so he forever changed the world.”

Bill Lucy, member of the NAACP National Board of Directors and labor leader:

“The world has lost one of the great statesmen of our time – a man who spent 27 years in prison because he believes in the cause of equality. His loss should set an example for political leaders still here, that there is a need to lead and govern in a manner that is equitable to all people.”

Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the NAACP Board of Directors:

“Nelson Mandela’s legacy remains an inspiration for the work of the NAACP. In Mandela’s name we must continue to bring attention to all aspects of global apartheid characterized by poverty, inequality, discrimination, and prejudice of all kind.”

Lorraine Miller, Interim NAACP President and CEO:

“President Mandela was humanity’s greatest living hero. His unwavering sense of justice and peace transformed a nation and inspired the world.”

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