Nelson Mandela may be the ‘world’s greatest hero’

Updated
In this June 17, 2010 file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela leaves the chapel after attending the funeral of his great-granddaughter...
In this June 17, 2010 file photo, former South African President Nelson Mandela leaves the chapel after attending the funeral of his great-granddaughter...
Siphiwe Sibeko/AP Photo, Pool, File

Let me finish tonight with this.

Nelson Mandela is in critical condition tonight. Perhaps the world’s greatest hero… he built his historic legacy while still in prison. He refused to leave Robben Island until white-ruled South African legalized the African National Congress. When it did, we knew the world was changing down there, that getting majority rule was just a matter of time.

I was there when the first election was held - when Mandela was elected president of South Africa. It was a glorious day of people waiting in line for hours so they could be part of the great change coming over that country, a change Nelson Mandela made possible.

We all thought it might take horrible bloodshed to change South Africa. The United States played a part in making that “not” the case. We did it with the Comprehensive Anti-Apartheid Act of 1986 which brought economic sanctions against the white-ruled society. It helped to change history for the better.

I had the privilege of being with Archbishop Tutu when he voted that great day in 1994, of interviewing Nelson Mandela, the president-elect afterwards. It was, along with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the greatest stories I’ve gotten to cover. I expect to be going to South Africa to honor the great man once again when the time comes.

It is impossible to measure the good his pain, his faith, his leadership has meant to our time.

It was he who instilled in millions of South Africans the power of the ballot, the joy of democracy.

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Nelson Mandela may be the 'world's greatest hero'

Updated