The death of Nelson “Madiba” Mandela on Dec. 5 at the age of 95 was met with an unprecedented outpouring of love, respect and sadness from the nations of the world and multitudes from all walks of life, including government leaders, celebrities and millions and millions of those for viewed him as symbol of the struggle to create a more humane world.
President Barack Obama spoke at Mandela’s funeral in South Africa, calling him “A giant of history.”
“I will always fall short… but [Mandela] makes me want to be a better man,” Obama said.
Ahmed Kathrada, 84, was an anti-apartheid fighter who was in prison with Mandela in the same jail block on Robben Island, the Alcatraz of South Africa.
“My abiding impression of him, which lasted all my life, was his ability to relate to me as an equal, so much so that the questions he asked me made me feel so comfortable that I could go back to school and boast to my friends that I met a university student who treated me the way he did,” said Kathrada. “That is how I remembered him all my life. He had an ability to treat everybody as equals.” Morgan Freeman remembered how he and Mandela became friends in the 1990s after a press conference, when Mandela was asked whom he would want to portray him in a film. “To my everlasting honor, he mentioned me,” said Freeman. “I got to walk with him, talk with him, hold his hand… Nearly 20 years after our first meeting, my company had the unique pleasure of producing Invictus. His only comment after we first screened the movie for him was a humble: ‘Now perhaps people will remember me.’” Danny Glover, an actor who has worked for human rights in Africa and the U.S., reflected on how Mandela changed his life. “I never in my lifetime thought I would get the chance to meet, and someone who became a friend. He used to affectionately call me, ‘Danny boy’,” Glover recalled. “It allows you … to reflect on this absolutely wonderful opportunity I’ve had, what are the elements that went into that, to not only allow me to be the artist I’ve hopefully grown to be, but also the human being and the citizen, which is much more important.” East Bay Congresswoman Barbara Lee talked about Mandela’s place in history and worldwide struggles for freedom. “Not only is Nelson Mandela the father of the liberation movement in South Africa, but he also laid the framework for modern liberation movements throughout the world,” she3 said. “(He) never compromised his political principles or the mission of the anti-apartheid movement, fighting the global AIDS pandemic, ending poverty and preserving human rights.” South Africa’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu emphasized Mandela’s lasting impact on South Africans. “Madiba taught us how to come together and how to believe in ourselves and each other, a unifier from the moment he walked out of prison. He taught us extraordinarily practical lessons about forgiveness and compassion and reconciliation.” Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, chairwoman of the African Union Commission, is the first woman to lead the organization. She is a former anti-apartheid activist and served under Mandela as South Africa’s minister of health. “From north to south, from east, central and west, Africa is in mourning, together with the rest of the world, for the loss of its greatest,” she said. “At the same time, they are celebrating the life of a gallant fighter, an ANC leader, leader of the South African people as a whole, leader of the African people and the rest of the world. We stand proud of you, Madiba, who represents the best Pan-African values of freedom, solidarity, service to the people, equality, sacrifice and defense of the human dignity.” “After his long life and illness, he can now rest,” said grandmother Victoria Ntsingo. “His work is done.”