News / Africa

United Nations Honors Mandela

A previous address to the United Nations by former South African President Nelson Mandela is shown on a video screen during an informal meeting of the plenary of the General Assembly to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day at the United Nations headquarters in New York, July 18, 2013.
A previous address to the United Nations by former South African President Nelson Mandela is shown on a video screen during an informal meeting of the plenary of the General Assembly to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day at the United Nations headquarters in New York, July 18, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Larry Freund
— Nelson Mandela was described as a towering figure as the United Nations General Assembly held a special meeting to honor the former South African president on his 95th birthday.

International diplomats and others joined at the United Nations to mark Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and commemorate what the General Assembly declared Nelson Mandela International Day. 

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said Mandela, since retiring as president of South Africa 12 years ago, has proved that you don’t have to be in public office to serve the public.

“That is what this day is all about, that is what the Mandela Center is all about.  And though he is old and frail and fighting for his life, what is in his heart still glows in his smile and lights up the room through his eyes.  None of us has to be in public office to be of public service,” he said.

Clinton said that was one of three lessons taught by Nelson Mandela’s 95 years.

“First we must free ourselves, then we must free and empower others.  Then we must serve as a way of life, not as a route to office.  Those are the lessons that every person on Earth can learn, embrace and live by,” said the former president.

  • Nelson Mandela's grandson Zondwa Mandela gives out food parcels as they celebrate Mandela Day with 67 minutes of public service to honour the 67 years Mandela served humanity by first fighting against white-minority rule and then consolidating racial harmony when he was president, at the SOS children's home in Mamelodi township outside Pretoria July 18, 2013.
  • Nelson Mandela's granddaughter Ndileka (R) serves soup as she celebrates Mandela Day with 67 minutes of public service to honour the 67 years Mandela served humanity by first fighting against white-minority rule and then consolidating racial harmony when he was president, at the SOS children's home in Mamelodi township outside Pretoria July 18, 2013.
  • Children hold placards as they gather to wish Nelson Mandela happy birthday at a township school in Atteridgeville, near Pretoria, July 18, 2013.
  • A portrait of Mandela is displayed on the windows of a building on his 95th birthday, Cape Town, South Africa, July 18, 2013.
  • A group of kindergarten children sing Happy Birthday outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where the former South African President is being treated in Pretoria, South Africa July 18, 2013.
  • A child sings as he and others celebrate Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday in Cape Town, July 18, 2013.
  • A banner of photos of Nelson Mandela set up outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital in South Africa, July 18, 2013.
  • School children sing happy birthday to Mandela in front of his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, July 18, 2013.
  • A man prays as well-wishers gather to wish Mandela happy birthday outside Mediclinic Heart Hospital, July 18, 2013.
  • Members of the ruling party youth league sing outside the Mediclinic Heart Hospital where Nelson Mandela is being treated, July 17, 2013.
  • A man places a candle inside the St. George’s Cathedral in Cape Town, South Africa, July 17, 2013.
  • A visitor takes a photo of a poster at the opening of an international exhibition of 95 posters celebrating the 95 years of the life of Nelson Mandela, at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, July 17, 2013.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described Nelson Mandela as a towering figure in the worldwide fight for equality and justice, a model of compassion and integrity, a man who took on and then gracefully relinquished the responsibility of power.

“Nelson Mandela is a giant of our times.  He gave 67 years of his life to the struggle for human rights.  On this international day, the United Nations and the Mandela Foundation are calling on people around the world to devote at least 67 minutes of their time today to community service,” he said.

Mandela is revered for his role in bringing down South Africa's discriminatory apartheid government.  He spent 27 years in prison -- then emerged to become South Africa's first black president while steering the country toward peace and reconciliation.

Andrew Mlageni, 87, who was imprisoned with Mandela during the apartheid era, also spoke of the commitment to service shown by the man he referred to as Madiba -- Mandela's clan name.

“Madiba has become the symbol of hope for mankind because his essence was and remains for the restoration of dignity and shared humanity.  For many in the world, he represents the desire for a world free from want, marginalization and fear,” he said.

The American civil rights leader Jesse Jackson told the General Assembly that people should remember that before Nelson Mandela was a president, he was a freedom fighter. 

“Mr. Mandela is our living response to all the cynics who seek to convince us that the world will forever be as it is now.  Because of Madiba, standing on his shoulders we are a bit taller, sharing his vision we see a bit further, because of his sacrifice, we work more diligently, we are made better.  He is a giant among men,” he said.

He also said Mandela is a constant reminder that - as Jackson put it - truth crushed down to earth will invariably rise again.

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid