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

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

Report from member of British think tank says Russian extradition requests keep targets from traveling More

US Lawmakers Weigh Turkish Anti-terror Moves

Turkey’s two-pronged campaign against Islamic State militants, Kurdish PKK forces provokes mixed reactions on Capitol Hill More

What Happens When Americans Eat What They Tweet

You are what you tweet, according to new maps that show a correlation between obesity and tweeting about high-fat foods More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponentsi
X
Henry Ridgwell
July 28, 2015 9:53 PM
A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video Special Olympics Athletes Meet International Friends

The Special Olympics are underway in Los Angeles, California, with athletes from 165 countries participating in an event that gives people with intellectual disabilities the chance to take part in an international competition. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that for athletes and their families, it's also an opportunity to make new friends in an international setting.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs