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.
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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs