Obama: Carry On Mandela Legacy 12/10 07:15
Celebrating one of his personal heroes, President Barack Obama praised
Nelson Mandela as the last great liberator of the 20th century, urging the
world to carry on his legacy by fighting inequality, poverty and discrimination.
JOHANNESBURG (AP) -- Celebrating one of his personal heroes, President
Barack Obama praised Nelson Mandela as the last great liberator of the 20th
century, urging the world to carry on his legacy by fighting inequality,
poverty and discrimination.
At a memorial service in Johannesburg, Obama compared the former South
African President to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.
"For nothing he achieved was inevitable," Obama said. "In the arc of his
life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and
shrewdness, persistence and faith. He tells us what's possible not just in the
pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well."
The crowd at the half-filled stadium erupted in applause each time Obama's
name was mentioned or his image was shown on the screen. Dozens gathered below
the box seats where Obama and other U.S. presidents sat, waving and snapping
pictures of the leaders.
As if to underscore the spirit of reconciliation that Mandela's life
embodied, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro as he made his way
down a line of world leaders gathered to honor the anti-apartheid leader. It
was a rare moment of accord for the leaders of the two Cold War enemies.
Calling himself a beneficiary of Mandela's struggle, Obama traced the
influence that Mandela's story has had on his own life, disclosing that he asks
himself how well he's applied Mandela's lessons to himself as a man and as
He said in the U.S., South Africa and around the world, people must not
allow progress that's been made to cloud the fact that more work must be done.
"We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of
peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial
reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would
challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality," Obama said, referring to
Mandela by his traditional clan name.
Extolling Mandela as practical but unyielding on his core principles, Obama
said it was because Mandela could admit to being imperfect that the world loved
him and continues to learn so much from his example. "He was not a bust made of
marble. He was a man of flesh and blood," Obama said.
He said Mandela had changed both laws and hearts, inspiring those around him
by reconciling with the jailers who kept him prisoner for 27 years. In trusting
others despite the injustices he suffered, Mandela showed that the cruelty of
the past must be confronted with truth, generosity and inclusion, Obama said.
"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," Obama said. "But let
me say to the people of Africa, and young people around the world: You can make
his life's work your own."
Joining Obama on the 16-hour trip from Washington for the ceremony were
first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura,
and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former Presidents Bill
Clinton and Jimmy Carter also attended the memorial service.