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    Showing posts with label Nelson Mandela. Show all posts

    Global Leaders Promise Mandela's Legacy Lives On

    He was remembered as a freedom fighter, a political prisoner, a moral icon impervious to hate, and a reconciler of seemingly irreconcilable camps. He was recalled as the crucial figure in the struggle that ended apartheid in South Africa, and as the president who then put aside retribution in favor of building a lasting democracy.

    But as the world mourned the death of Nelson Mandela, who died at his home in Johannesburg on Thursday night, words of loss resonated less as historical underscoring than as a collective yearning for a future in which his signature virtues would persevere: Through a human life as complex and vulnerable to contradiction as any other, Mandela consistently evinced an unwavering commitment to improving his nation and the state of human society.

    In Britain, David Cameron praised Mandela as "a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death - a true global hero," adding that "a great light has gone out in the world." Former prime minister Tony Blair celebrated Mandela as a transformational figure whose impacts on the events of his era went beyond his own nation.

    "He came to represent something that was much more than just about the resolution of the issues of apartheid and of South Africa," Blair said. "He came to represent something quite inspirational for the future of the world and for peace and reconciliation in the 21st century."

    In Washington, President Barack Obama called Mandela "one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with," adding: "He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages."

    Obama spoke about Mandela's importance in strikingly personal terms, a recognition of the historical distinction they share as the first black men elected to their nation's highest offices.

    "I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," Obama said. "I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example set by Nelson Mandela."

    Those words effectively closed the book on previous American conceptions of Mandela who, until 2008, remained on the nation's terrorist watch list given his support for armed resistance.

    In a sign that this sort of sentiment has yet to be dispatched to history, Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakastani activist who has earned global acclaim for championing the cause of girls' education, issued a statement in which she called Mandela "my leader."

    "He belongs to the whole world because he is an icon of equality, freedom and love, the values we need all the time everywhere," Malala said. "His long, long struggle is a great demonstration of humanity."

    In Italy, Minister of Integration Cecile Kyenge -- the first black woman to serve at that level of Italian government -- also described Mandela as a historical current whose force lives on even after his death.

    "He leaves the whole world a message of civil society that has accompanied us throughout the twentieth century and that will accompany future generations for centuries to come," Kyenge said. "The man himself has passed away but he left his light on, a flame that we will continue to feed in conveying his being, his teachings."

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Mandela "a giant of history," whose focus on peaceful change over historical revenge made him a "statesman with a message that is valid in every country and at every time."

    In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed sorrow for the loss of "a beacon of hope for the future," while emphasizing how Mandela had focused on bridging the racial chasm dividing his country in the years after apartheid.

    "Not only was former President Mandela a tireless fighter, he was also a promoter of reconciliation," Abe said. "Indeed, after bringing about the abolition of apartheid at the end of long years of suffering, he devoted himself to the pursuit of national unity rather than seeking vengeance."

    Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino expressed admiration for Mandela's willingness to acknowledge the role of F.W. de Klerk, the last South African president under apartheid, in working to eradicate the racist system. "It was not an easy thing to say, and to say it in those years to his people," Bonino said. "Yet Mandela had the intellectual honesty to proclaim it and to start his policy of reconciliation."

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