Today, as we mourn the loss of one of history’s most transformational leaders, let us also pay tribute to his life and legacy. Let us dedicate ourselves to remembering his lessons and continue his efforts to spread democracy, freedom and equality across the globe.
Nelson Mandela was a civil rights activist, teacher, freedom fighter, “Father of the Nation,” political prisoner, father, husband and an inspiration to the entire global community. He fought for democracy, not only in his own home of South Africa, but across the world. He explained: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
Years after organizing against Apartheid in front of the South African Embassy in Washington, I first had the honour of meeting Mr. Mandela in 1993 when I escorted him to President Clinton’s Inaugural event at the D.C. Armory. A year later, I went to South Africa to help train election workers and had the privilege of meeting him again.
Like so many others fighting for progress, I have drawn inspiration from Nelson Mandela. He showed us that it was possible to create lasting change, peace and stability even in the most formidable circumstances. He was an advocate for the downtrodden and believed that, “education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
President Obama and the First Lady said it best: “Nelson Mandela’s personal story is one of unbreakable will, unwavering integrity and abiding humility.” He has, “changed the arc of history, transforming his country, continent and the world”.
Madiba, today and forever, we will remember you – and your legacy will live on.