NEW YORK TIMES
He was 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. And, as South Africa’s first president elected by the full democratic franchise of all its people, he presided over a landmark Truth and Reconciliation process that finally allowed apartheid’s victims a measure of official recognition and acknowledgment of their suffering. Mr. Mandela’s enormous strength of character steeled him for his long struggle and ultimate victory over apartheid. Even deeper resources of political wisdom and courage steered him toward the course of constructive reconciliation over destructive vengeance.
MANDELA TAUGHT A CONTINENT TO FORGIVE
JOHN DRAMANI MAHAMA
NEW YORK TIMES
It is no coincidence that in the years since Mandela’s release so much of Africa has turned toward democracy and the rule of law. His utilization of peace as a vehicle of liberation showed Africa that if we were to move beyond the divisiveness caused by colonization, and the pain of our self-inflicted wounds, compassion and forgiveness must play a role in governance. Countries, like people, must acknowledge the trauma they have experienced, and they must find a way to reconcile, to make what was broken whole again. …[H]is story, the long walk to freedom, was also Africa’s story. The indignation that once permeated our continent has been replaced by inspiration. … It wasn’t just Nelson Mandela who was transformed during those years of his imprisonment. We all were. And Africa is all the better because of that.
NEW YORK TIMES
Mandela’s contributions to black-white conciliation are well known, but what is perhaps less famous is his tireless work to fight AIDS, to bring peace to warring nations, and to promote respect for LGBT rights. In a continent that has often been deeply repressive of gays and lesbians, Mandela was a strong advocate of equality and gay marriage, and it was because of his influence that South Africa became the fifth country in the world to legalize gay marriage. He was a leader not just for South Africa but for the world. So, yes, a mighty figure may have died at the age of 95. But travel around Africa and the world, and you see his imprint, his legacy, his spirit. Mandela lives.
WALL STREET JOURNAL
The bulk of his adult life, Nelson Mandela was a failed Marxist revolutionary and leftist icon, the Che Guevara of Africa. Then in his seventies he had the chance to govern. He chose national reconciliation over reprisal, and he thus made himself an historic and all too rare example of a wise revolutionary leader. … Mandela became the biggest of African men by refusing to act like a typical African “Big Man.” He transcended his party’s history of Marxism, tribalism and violence. The continent and world were fortunate to have him.
MANDELA: THE LAST ‘HERO FOR THE WORLD’
No cause, and no leader, has inspired anything like the devotion and reverence that Mandela did. … It wasn’t just the way he conducted his struggle against the racist white regime in South Africa, in and out of prison (refusing, in case we’ve forgotten, any conditions at all for his release, including renouncing violence). It was also the way, after he was released from 26 years of imprisonment and became president, Mandela transmuted his personal suffering into a larger understanding, as only the great ones can do, and an embrace of his former enemies that was about as close as you get to Christ-like in the modern world.
MANDELA: THE MIRACLE MAKER
THE DAILY BEAST
The sight of the 71-year-old Mandela walking out of Victor Verster Prison to freedom after 27 years, raising his fist in triumph, practically defied belief. Many of his supporters had despaired that the regime would ever let him out. And yet despite spending a quarter-century behind bars for demanding his people’s rights, he wasn’t bitter. He remained optimistic about the human character. “There is a streak of goodness in men that can be buried or hidden and then emerge unexpectedly,” he later wrote.