Washington, Dec 6: America’s first black President, Barack Obama, in a moving and eloquent tribute, remembered South Africa’s first black president and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela as “a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” said Obama on the death Thursday of the South African leader, who inspired by his other idol Indian freedom leader Mahatma Gandhi, led a peaceful struggle against racial oppression.
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life,” said the son of a Kenyan father and an American white mother, who in 2008 himself created history by becoming the first African American President.
“My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid,” said Obama.
“And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him,” he said.
“We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” Obama said. “Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth.”
“He no longer belongs to us – he belongs to the ages,” he said.
Obama is expected to travel to South Africa for the memorial service.
Former US presidents and US lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, as also the media also mourned the death of Mandela.
Former President Bill Clinton called Mandela “a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation” who “proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life’s real victories must be shared.”
“Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time,” said former President George W. Bush. “This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said, “Today, people all around the world who yearn for democracy look to Mandela’s nation and its democratic Constitution as a hopeful example of what is possible.”
The Washington Post compared Mandela, who “brought the world toward a racial reconciliation” to Mahatma Gandhi and American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., both “men of peace, preaching nonviolent resistance to oppression and exploitation.”
“Gandhi, King, Mandela – these, it could be argued, are the figures who will live longest in the public consciousness as we look back on the postwar world,” it said.
They were “leaders who had no real armies to speak of and who wielded little power in office but who helped create a new ethic through the power of their ideas and the example of their lives,” the Post said.
The New York Times hailed Mandela as “one of the most extraordinary liberation leaders Africa, or any other continent, ever produced.
“Not only did he lead his people to triumph over the deeply entrenched system of apartheid that enforced racial segregation in every area of South African life; he achieved this victory without the blood bath so many had predicted and feared.”