Former South African revolutionary and president Nelson Mandela has died, allowing President Barack Obama to immediately eulogize him as a “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,” Obama said in a 5:30 statement.
Mandela began his political career as an angry revolutionary against the Boer rule in Africa, but helped engineer a peaceful transfer of power to the black majority, and a relatively peaceful transition after his retirement from the country’s presidency.
“His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better,” Obama said, echoing his 2008 campaign trail “hope and change” pitch.
“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 in our own personal lives,” he stated.
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life,” he said.
“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… [and] the day he was released from prison it gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears,” he said.
“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again, so it falls to us as best we can to [follow] 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,” he said.
Other political leaders also issued eulogies that match their perspectives.
“Nelson Mandela was a man of courage, honor, and conviction. … His legacy will continue to inspire generations to work toward greater freedom and justice throughout the world,” said Republican Sen. John Thune.
Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan issued a brief statement.
“Nelson Mandela was a hero… Nelson Mandela was for many years, ‘a silent and suffering “witness” of your people’s yearning for true liberation,’ who … had to then ‘shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction.”
“May he rest in peace,” said Dolan’s statement.