Yesterday, the world lost a great man. Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95. In addition to being South Africa's first black president, Mandela was an anti-apartheid activist and human rights icon throughout much of his life. He even spent 27 years locked up as a political prisoner for trying to fight the apartheid in South Africa. As the news of his passing broke, leaders around the world spoke and issued statements to express their condolences, and their admiration for Mandela's life-long work as a political activist.
President Obama spoke after the announcement, saying Nelson Mandela was “a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice.” The President said, “I cannot imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set.” South African President Jacob Zuma said, “His tireless struggle for freedom had him the respect of the world. His humility, his compassion, and his humanity lent him their love.”
Throughout his life, Nelson Mandela fought the entrenched system of racial oppression, and inspired millions to stand up to human suffering. And, in his later years, he openly spoke out against the Iraq War, racism in America, and the ongoing war on unions. He also spoke strongly against inequality, saying “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
It is nearly impossible to encapsulate the life and work of this great man in few sentences. We can pay our respects to Nelson Mandela by carrying the torch for his iconic work, and continuing his fight to end poverty, racism, and oppression throughout the world. In the words of Mandela, “Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”
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