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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid