News / Africa

Obama: Mandela Bent Arc of Moral Universe Toward Justice

President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the death of Nelson Mandela in the briefing room of the White House,  Dec. 5, 2013.
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the death of Nelson Mandela in the briefing room of the White House, Dec. 5, 2013.
President Barack Obama called Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at the age of 95, a man of fierce dignity and unbending will who transformed South Africa, and now "belongs to the ages."  

The first African-American president of the United States, his own political and personal life intensely influenced by Mandela, spoke shortly after news of Mandela's death was delivered to the world.

"Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal and he made it real.  He achieved more than could be expected of any man.  Today he has gone home.  We have lost one of 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," said President Obama.

Like Obama, Mandela became his nation's first black president.  President Obama said he is "one of the countless millions" who drew inspiration from him.

Obama recalled that the first thing he did "involving an issue or policy or politics" was a protest against apartheid.

"I would study his words and his writings.  The day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.  And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him," said President Obama.

Mandela's "journey from prisoner to a president," said Obama, "embodied the promise that human beings - and countries - can change for the better."

"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 our own personal lives.  And the fact that he did it all with grace and good humor, and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable," said Obama.

Obama and Mandela met just once, a spontaneous encounter during a conference in Washington in 2005, when Obama was still a junior U.S. senator.

When he visited South Africa earlier this year, Obama did not see Mandela, who was seriously ill at the time.  He did tour Robben Island, where Mr. Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years he spent behind bars.

In a speech at the University of Cape Town, Obama described the Mandela legacy as "young people, black, white, Indian, everything in between living and learning together in a South Africa that is free and at peace."

First lady Michelle Obama and the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, did get to meet with Mandela during a visit to South Africa in 2011.

Members of Congress and former U.S. presidents offered tributes to Mandela.

Former president Bill Clinton said, "History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation."

Former president George H. W. Bush said Mandela set a powerful example of redemption and grace, calling him a man of tremendous moral courage who changed the course of history.

Addressing the people of South Africa, President Obama said Mandela's legacy is "a free South Africa at peace with itself, that is an example to the world."  Mandela, he said, was a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.

The White House has not yet provided any information about when President Obama will, as is expected, travel to South Africa for the state funeral.

You May Like

Turkey's Erdogan: Women Not Equal to Men

Speaking at conference in Istanbul, President Erdogan says Islam has defined a position for women: motherhood More

Ahead of SAARC Summit, Subdued Expectations

Some regional analysts say distrust between Pakistani, Indian officials has slowed SAARC's progress over the year More

Philippines Leery of Development on Reef Reclamation in S. China Sea

Chinese land reclamation projects in area have been ongoing for years, but new satellite imagery reportedly shows China’s massive construction project More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Changei
X
November 24, 2014 10:09 PM
Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid