The world gave effusive tribute on Friday to Nelson Mandela, the towering figure of human rights who survived 27 years in prison and led South Africa out of apartheid and to the promised land of a multi-racial democracy.
With a message of reconciliation, rather than vengeance, he inspired the world by negotiating a peaceful end to segregation and promoting forgiveness for the white government that imprisoned him.
"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison," Mandela said after he was freed in 1990. He became president of South Africa in 1995. He died on Thursday at 95.
Ordinary people and dignitaries alike recalled him with an outpouring of familial affection and a sense of debt.
“We love you Papa Mandela,” a crowd parading in Soweto cried.
“When Africa cries, Africa sings,” Japie Molatedi, 55, who described himself as a “typical Sowetan,” told The New York Times.
“He never sat behind closed doors or walls,” Samantah Nkabinde, 28, a financial analyst in Johannesburg, told the paper. “He went out among the people, touched so many people.”
The government announced a state funeral will take place on Dec. 15, the eve of one of the most important public holidays in the South African political calendar: the Day of Reconciliation.
Notables from around the globe offered tributes:
Jacob Zuma, President of South Africa: "Our people have lost a father. Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity earned him their love. Our nation has lost its greatest son." – Jacob Zuma, GCB is the President of South Africa
Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary-General: "Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration. Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom. He touched our lives in deeply personal ways. At the same time, no-one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations. Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world and within each one of us - if we believe, dream and work together for justice and humanity."
President Barak Obama: "We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with. He no longer belongs to us, he belongs to the ages. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to.”
Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate and former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town: "The world is a better place for Nelson Mandela. He showed in his own character, and inspired in others, many of God's attributes: goodness, compassion, a desire for justice, peace, forgiveness and reconciliation. He was not only an amazing gift to humankind, he made South Africans and Africans feel good about being who we are. He made us walk tall. God be praised."
Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of India: “A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s.”
Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister: "One man united an entire world, one man changed an entire world, one man with a moral force has shown that he is stronger than all armies, stronger than all forces. We shall remember him with love and appreciation and we shall not forget his personality because we need it to guide our lives in the future."
Former President Bill Clinton: "I will never forget my friend Madiba."
Oprah Winfrey: "He was everything you've ever heard and more – humble and unscathed by bitterness. And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time. He will always be my hero. His life was a gift to us all."
Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian President: "The Palestinian people will never forget his historic statement that the South African revolution will not have achieved its goals as long as the Palestinians are not free."
Hillary Rodham Clinton, former U.S. Secretary of State: "Nelson Mandela was a champion for justice and human dignity, with unmatched grace. I'll remember him as Madiba, truly an unconquerable soul."
Muhammad Ali: "He made us realize, we are our brother's keeper and that our brothers come in all colors. What I will remember most about Mr. Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge." – Greatest heavyweight boxer in sport’s history.
Mia Farrow: "Beloved Madiba you taught the world to walk from anger toward peace and understanding. No words can adequately express our gratitude.Former President George Bush: "President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This great man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever."
Tiger Woods: "You will always be in my heart Mr. Mandela."
Former President Jimmy Carter: The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world's leading democracies."
Paul Simon: "He conceived a model for mortal enemies to overcome their hatred and find a way through compassion to rebuild a nation based on truth, justice and the power of forgiveness. His passing should reignite a worldwide effort for peace."
Bill Gates: "Every time Melinda and I met Nelson Mandela, we left more inspired than ever. His grace and courage changed the world. This is a sad day."
Morgan Freeman: "Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength, and unyielding resolve---a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind. As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go."
Bono: "Mandela played with the highest stakes. He put his family, his country, his time, his life on the line, and he won most of these contests. Stubborn til the end for all the right reasons, it felt like he very nearly outstared his maker. Today, finally, he blinked. And some of us cry, knowing our eyes were opened to so much because of him."
British Prime Minister David Cameron: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time. I've asked for the flag at No10 to be flown at half mast."
Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister: "He would delight in making sure that the person on the door or serving the tea would feel at home with him and be greeted by him with the same kindness and respect he would show a leader. So the warmth of his personality was equal to the magnitude of his contribution to the world. He was a great man, a great leader and the world's most powerful symbol of reconciliation, hope and progress."
The Dalai Lama: “In his death the world has lost a great leader, whose steadfast and unflinching determination played a key role in securing peace and reconciliation during South Africa’s transition from apartheid rule. Under his leadership South Africa was transformed through peaceful means, in the spirit of reconciliation."
The Norwegian Nobel Committee: "Nelson Mandela is one of the greatest names in the long history of the Nobel Peace Prize. He was honored in 1993 together with his counterpart president F. W. de Klerk for their work for a peaceful end to the apartheid regime and for having laid the foundation for a new democratic South Africa. They both showed great personal integrity and political courage by choosing the road of negotiation and reconciliation. Most of the credit for this undoubtedly goes to Nelson Mandela who after 27 years in prison chose to focus on the possibilities of the future instead of the horrors of the past. As the president of the new South Africa, Mandela pointed the way towards human rights and democracy, appealing to generations all over the world. His work presents a message also today to all those who bear responsibility for apparently unresolvable conflicts: Even the most bitter of conflicts can be solved by peaceful means."
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