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The Rachel Maddow Show, Transcript 12/05/13

Guests: John Lewis, Ron Dellums, Dan Rather

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: And thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. This is the kind of pass that you had to carry. It had your fingerprints on it and your photo. And who you worked for and where you lived. And where you were allowed to go and when you were allowed to go there and for how long and for what purpose. Starting in 1950, with the Population Registration Act, everybody in South Africa had to register with the government by race. A racial review board, essentially, would give you a look, decide what race they would say that you were, and they would give you a racial ID card, so you would know which laws applied to you and what you were allowed to do. But as 1952, every black person in the country over the age of 16 had to have not just a racial ID car, like everyone else, but also this passbook, which any white person could demand to see at any time. And if you were found to be in a place that was not just reserved for black people, if your passbook did not explain that you had explicit permission to be there, as a nonwhite person, then it was illegal for you to there. And you could be arrested, just for existing. Just not having your passbook on you at all times was also grounds to be arrested and thrown in jail. The pass laws meant that by virtue of being black in South Africa, you were presumed to be a criminal unless you could prove otherwise by having the proper paperwork. And any white person could challenge you anywhere for any reason, and if you did not have the passbook, if you did not have the right documents, if you didn`t have the right written permission to be where you were, when you were there, then you could be put in jail. Passbook laws had been around on and off in South Africa since the 18th century and the structure was always the same: white people never needed them. White people could go wherever they wanted. But non-white people need, essentially, a permission slip, an internal passport. "Papers, please." Passbook laws of various kinds were not new, but at the end of World War II, the election in South Africa unexpectedly brought to power a nationalist government that had run explicitly on a platform that they called apartness. The word "apartness," in their language was pronounced apartheid. And so, when the so-called national party came to power in 1948, they started codifying immediately all the various ways that they could separate the population by race and treat people according to the ways that they thought the various races should be treated. In 1949, the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, which banned people of different races from getting married to each other. Whether or not you got married, the Immorality Act of 1950 made sexual relations between people of different races a criminal act. Also in 1950, the Population Registration Act, which made everybody in the country register by race and receive an official racial classification -- black, white, Indian, or colored. Those were the four categories. And there were a million subcategories beneath those. I should say, not beneath white, of course. White was just white. But for everybody else, it could be a little complicated, depending on what your review board thought of you. Also in 1950, the Group Areas Act, which geographically partitioned the country along racial lines. That one formed the basis for the state forcibly relocating people within the country by race. In 1953, the Reservation of Separate Amenities Act. Plus, 1953 that`s the year before the U.S. Supreme Court declared that separate educational facilities are inherently unequal, the year before we said, separate but equal was dead, South Africa codified it, explicitly, for their nation. The apartness, the apartheid system of separate schools, separate hospitals, separate beaches, separate buses, separate park benches, separate everything, everything assigned to specific races, and the lion`s share of everything, and of course, the best of everything, reserved only for the white minority. Black people had no right to vote. People classified as "colored," for a while, they had a right to vote specifically for white people to represent them, but eventually that was stripped too. Only the white minority had the vote in the end. Only the white minority was represented in government and only the white minority had any say whatsoever of the affairs in the nation. Eighty percent of the country lived entirely segregated and without representation under white rule, 80 percent of the country. And by 1960, the resistance to apartheid, the demonstrations against it, had started to zero in on those passbooks, those pass laws, the "papers, please" laws, which made your mere existence criminal if you were challenged by a white person as to what you were doing there. In 1960, when different resistance movements were competing with each other about tactics and about strategy, about the best way to try to overthrow apartheid, just outside of Johannesburg, in a black township called Sharpeville, somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 people turned up at the local police station in Sharpeville and said they wanted to turn themselves in. These thousands of people, they turned up and said they all felt that had they needed to be arrested, they wanted to be arrested, all 5,000 of them, because they said, they did not have their passbooks, and so they were turning themselves in for arrest. That act of protest was greeted by the local police with live ammunition. They shot into the crowd. They wounded over 150 people, including many women and children. In the end, the police massacre at Sharpeville killed 69 people. At the time, Nelson Mandela was in his early 40s. He had joined the African National Congress, the ANC, way back in 1944. The ANC and the other major organizations opposing apartheid in South Africa had been organized as nonviolent movements, nonviolent resistance, and nonviolent organizing. But after Sharpeville, they decided that maybe that wasn`t enough. After Sharpeville, they decided they would form a paramilitary wing, and Nelson Mandela was one of the ANC leaders who went underground to help start it. They said they would target government buildings and strategic infrastructure and they would try to sabotage the state. After Sharpeville, the government of South Africa started mass arrests of ANC leaders and other activists. They banned the ANC. They made it illegal to be a member of that group. Nelson Mandela was arrested for treason in 1961, but he was acquitted. He was arrested again in 1962, and this time, convicted -- convicted of traveling illegally. They sentenced him to five years hard labor on South Africa`s version of Alcatraz, which, of course, is Robben Island. While he was already serving that sentence, while he was already in prison, they put him on trial again, this time for sabotage. And they convicted him. And they sentenced him to life in prison, to life on Robben Island. And so in 1964, he began a new sentence that was a life sentence. And for the first 18 years of it, his cell on Robben Island had no bed, no plumbing of any kind. He was permitted one letter every six months. He was permitted one visitor per year for 30 minutes. He became a symbol worldwide of the fight to stop apartheid. The South African government would not allow a picture to be taken of him in prison for decades. And so, the image, the free Nelson Mandela image, was always him as a young man in his 40s, as he had been when he`d been locked away, even as he aged decade after decade in prison. He served 27 years in prison, 18 of them at hard labor in that island cell before South Africa was finally ready to give up apartness, to give up apartheid. And when F.W. de Klerk was collected president of South African in 1989, it was essentially no relent. To finally, at least, start to give up the arcane and brutal racial system that South Africa invented, it`s hard to remember, but really, invented after world war ii, after Hitler, and that they fought for for 50 years against the people that they subjugated with that system. F.W. de Klerk was elected in 1989, he then legalized the ANC. He unbanned the organization. And in February of 1990, he visited then 71- year-old Nelson Mandela, still imprisoned 27 years later, and he told him that he was going to set him free the next morning. And on February 11th, 1990, Nelson Mandela emerged. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I now present to you, the great leader who has been in jail for 25 -- 27 years. (SPEAKING IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE) REPORTER: Nelson Mandela speaks after 27 years. NELSON MANDELA, ANTI-APARTHEID ICON: My friends, comrades, and fellow South Africans, I great you all, in the name of peace, democracy, and freedom for all. I stand here before you, not as a prophet, but as a humble servant for few people. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: After 27 years in prison, when Nelson Mandela was released, he led the negotiations for the ANC, for the end of apartheid. And apartheid was dismantled. And on the 27th of April, in 1994, Nelson Mandela was elected the new president of South Africa, in the first election ever held in that country, where all adult citizens were welcome to vote, regardless of race. Millions of people waited in line to vote, in voting that took three days. And April 27th is now a national holiday in South Africa. It`s called Freedom Day. And when it came time sign the new constitution for South Africa, which eliminated all vestiges of law by race, President Nelson Mandela went to Sharpeville to sign the constitution. Today, at the age of 95, Nelson Mandela died at home in South Africa at his home in Johannesburg. His family says it was his wish to be buried in the town where he was born. Joining me now is Congressman John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, and civil rights leader. Congressman Lewis, thank you for being with us here tonight on this historic day. REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Thank you very much, Rachel, for having me, and thank you for that rich history, telling the story, what happened and how it happened. It is very moving. MADDOW: I have to ask, after your long career, especially as a young man in the south, in the American civil rights movement, how did Nelson Mandela`s work inform your own? What has he meant to you over the years? What`s been the interplay between our civil rights movement and his struggle? LEWIS: Well, the leadership, the vision, the commitment, the dedication, the inspiration of this one man meant everything to the American civil rights movement. I remember it as a young student in Nashville in 1962 and `63 and `64. We said, if Nelson Mandela can do it, we can do it. We identify with the struggle. And when I met him for the first time. He said to me, "John Lewis, I know all about you. I follow you, you inspired us." And I said, "No, Mr. Mandela, you inspired us." So that was just unbelievable relationship between what was happening in America and what would happen in South Africa. We would say from time to time, the struggle in Birmingham, the struggle in Selma is inseparable from the struggle in Sharpeville. MADDOW: One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you today, Congressman, was reading about and thinking about and trying to understand the importance of those decisions that was made by Mandela and other ANC leaders and other antiapartheid leaders after Sharpeville, when they decided that nonviolence wasn`t enough. They had been committed to nonviolence in the way that you have been so overtly committed to nonviolence, throughout your life, throughout those struggles, even in the face of incredible physical brutality, and they decided when they saw those people massacred, that they needed some sort of military response as well. Never ended up being a key response of their response to apartheid, but they made that hard decision. How international were those discussions about the importance of nonviolence and whether or not it was enough to overthrow governments and to change the world? LEWIS: Here in America and around the world, there was ongoing discussion about the way of peace, the way of love, the way of nonviolence, appealing the people not to give up. But Mr. Mandela and the people of South Africa learned and stand in prison 27 years. He came out committed to the way of peace, to the way of love, to the way of nonviolence, to the way of reconciliation. In South Africa, who his leadership, he liberated the spirit of the oppressed and the spirit of the oppressor. MADDOW: When you met him, when he was released from prison, you described a little bit about what conversation was like. What is it -- what did it feel like for you to meet him? Is that an intimidating prospect? Was it an inspiring prospect? What was that relationship like? LEWIS: It was both inspiring and intimidating. We greeted each other. He gave me this unbelievable hug. I hugged him. He held me tightly and I said, "Thank you, thank you, Mr. Mandela. Thank you. Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for being such a leader." I knew I was standing in the midst of greatness. So I was a little nervous about meeting him. And I had an opportunity to see him several other occasion, and he just made me feel more human. MADDOW: Congressman John Lewis, you were the person I wanted to talk to more than anybody else tonight. Thank you so much for being with us, sir. I really appreciate you being here. LEWIS: Thank you. MADDOW: Thank you. All right. We`ve got so much more ahead. Please stay with us. Lots to come. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REPORTER: I went to see the man who organized this stay-away, the 42- year-old African lawyer, Nelson Mandela, the most dynamic leader in South Africa today. The police were hunting for him at the time, but African nationalists had arranged for me to meet him at his hideout. He is still underground. This is Mandela`s first television interview. I asked him what it was that the African really wanted. MANDELA: The Africans want the franchise on the basis of one man, one vote. They want political independence. REPORTER: Do you see Africans being able to develop in this country without the Europeans being pushed out? MANDELA: We have made it very clear in our policy that South Africa is a country of many races. There is room for all the races in this country. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see, I wasn`t born into a political family. I was not active in student government in high school. But when I was in college, there was one issue that moved me for the very first time in my life to become politically active and play a small leadership role in my community. The issue was apartheid. And as a young college student, I became involved in the divestment movement in the United States. I remember meeting with a group of ANC leaders and hearing stories of their struggles and of their leader, Nelson Mandela. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: That was a video birthday message that President Obama prepared for Nelson Mandela back in 2008. We`ve got much more ahead. Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) PRES. JACOB ZUMA, SOUTH AFRICA: He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest so son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: African President Jacob Zuma earlier tonight, announcing the death of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. Mr. Mandela was hospitalized this past June because of a recurring lung infection. In late June, his condition went from serious to critical and at one point Mr. Mandela was placed on life-support. His family gathered, seemingly getting ready to say good-bye. For several days in late June, the whole world braced for the world of Mr. Mandela`s passing. World leaders from President Obama to the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki- moon, offered prayers and remembrances. But Mr. Mandela held on this summer. By the time of his 95th birthday on July 18th, with crowds gathered outside his hotel room in Pretoria to sing to him, to celebrate his life, Mr. Mandela was described by then as responding to treatment and his doctors said he was steadily improving. By August, Mr. Mandela was breathing normally. And although he was still battling the lung infection that had hospitalized him in the first place, in August, he was -- excuse me, on the first of September, he was discharged from the hospital, so that he can continue to receive intensive care at home, in Johannesburg. After he died at his home today in Johannesburg, his home there is where South Africans have gathered tonight to pay their respects. Joining us now is NBC News Africa correspondent Rohit Kachroo, who`s in front of Nelson Mandela`s home right now, tonight, in Johannesburg. Rohit, thank you -- thank you very much for being with us. What can you tell us just about the scene where you are and the reaction tonight there? ROHIT KACHROO, NBC NEWS: Well, Rachel, a quite extraordinary picture behind us. It`s 4:00 a.m. in the morning here in South Africa and we have a crowd of hundreds of people who haven`t gone to sleeps, hundreds of people who, on the whole, fairly young. These are people who are part of the so-called born free generation, those who have no memory of apartheid, who were born after the birth of democracy in South Africa, and they have come here not to mourn. I`ve not seen a single person here crying. They`re all here to celebrate. And they`re doing that by singing songs from the antiapartheid struggle, singing the national anthem, which includes all 12 languages of South Africa, this sort of musical celebration of the rainbow nation of multi-cultural South Africa. And they`re going to keep going. This is a party and, you know, the mood, the expectation was one of mourning, but actually what people are celebrating here is not only the life of Nelson Mandela, but what he gave to all South Africans through his fight against apartheid, through his 27 years in prison, much of the it spent in solitary confinement. These people, even the youngest ones, are well aware of the life that they might have lived, had it not been for the sacrifice of Nelson Mandela. And I suspect that`s a great deal of what`s being celebrated here, early in the morning here in South Africa outside the home of Nelson Mandela. MADDOW: Rohit, I wonder if it`s your sense that with the scare this summer in July in particular, when everybody was so worried that he was going to pass, and when the world sort of prepare for the idea that he might die, if that sort of -- if some of the grieving happened then, the recognition that he was going to pass and people have started to move on to his legacy, rather than just his loss since then. KACHROO: Yes, I think that`s a fair statement, Rachel. It`s six months since he was first admitted to the hospital. He`s been around four months, firstly seriously ill, then critically ill. Then he was returned home, discharged from the hospital in September. But his family made it clear that we weren`t t get too excited, because his home here had been essentially kited out as an extensive care unit, right here in the middle of the city, inside his home. So, you know, there`s been a great deal of grieving in one sense, already, people have become quite used to this, this enactment, a 95-year-old man with a serious respiratory illness, who has been incredibly sick for several years now, dying at this grand old age, and was entirely predictable, but it was painful nonetheless. Painful in those first few hours, talking to people here, listening to people (INAUDIBLE) into the radio, but I sense that even in those few hours since, the mood is slightly changing, as people reflect on the life of Nelson Mandela and what his sacrifice did for everyone here, Rachel. MADDOW: NBC News Africa correspondent Rohit Kachroo, live from Johannesburg, outside Nelson Mandela`s home -- Rohit, thank you so much for staying up until the wee hours with us. I really appreciate you being there. Thank you. All right. We`ve got lots more to come. Please do stay with us tonight. Lots ahead. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MANDELA: We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society, in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity, a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world. (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: When President Obama visited South Africa this past summer, he brought his family to Robben Island to see the cell where Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned by the apartheid regime for so many years. Because Mr. Mandela had been so ill this year, President Obama did not personally visit with him while he was on that trip to South Africa. In fact, this is interesting -- the only time the two men apparently ever met in person was in 2005 in Washington, when Mr. Obama was just starting his career in the United States Senate. "The New York Times" reports that the one visit started when Mr. Mandela`s advisers told him, while he was on a trip to Washington, that while he was there, he ought to take a little bit of time to try to meet this rising star young senator who had given such a great speech at the Democratic National Convention the year before. And so, Senator Obama got the call, unexpectedly. He was on his way to meeting on a totally different subject at the time, but he diverted course in Washington and drove to Mr. Mandela`s hotel room in Washington. And that is where this picture was taken, which is the only picture of the two men ever taken. It was taken by Senator Obama`s personal assistant at the time, who was driving him to that other meeting when the call came through to please come meet Nelson Mandela, and that`s the only time they have ever been photographed together. We`ll be right back. More to come. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MANDELA: Ten days ago, my delegation, my wife and I stepped on the side of this United States, once more we were received with overwhelming tributes of friendship and solidarity. It is clear, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the unbending of our organization came as a result of the pressures upon apartheid regime by yourselves. I want to tell you that Oakland it is the last city that I am visiting in the course of my tour. Let me assure you that despite my 71 years, at the end of this visit, I feel like a young man of 35. It is you, the people of the Oakland, the people of Bay Area, who have given me and my delegation strength and hope to grow back and continue the struggle. (APPLAUSE) You must remember that you are our blood brothers and sisters. (APPLAUSE) You are comrades in the struggle. (APPLAUSE) Remember that we respect you, we admire you, and above all, we love you all. Thank! Thank you! (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: I was there that day, in person. I was 17 and the Oakland Coliseum, of all places, in Oakland, California, was Nelson Mandela`s final stop on a tour of the United States that he took upon his release from prison after 27 years. This was less than six months after he was freed from prison. He`s in his 70s. He`d not been free in decades. And he took this exhausting tour, and you would not think of the Bay Area and Oakland as being must-do stops on that kind of a tour, but Nelson Mandela, upon getting out of prison, made a specific point of traveling to Oakland, California, because Oakland, California, and Berkeley, and San Francisco all had passed municipal policies that insisting on divesting stock from any company that did business in South Africa. Even the longshoreman at the West Coast ports in California had refused to unload South African goods coming into the ports of the Bay Area -- all in protest of the apartheid system, all to try to support the fight against it in South Africa, all to try to pressure the apartheid government to give up. And so, Nelson Mandela came all the way to Oakland to say thank you for doing that. It mattered. It is part of why I am free and it is part of why apartheid is ending. And that decision about divestment was not an uncontroversial one in American politics at the time. President Ronald Reagan was vehemently opposed to that strategy. He and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher actively imposed sanctions against the apartheid regime. Margaret Thatcher went so far to call Nelson Mandela a terrorist, but that`s another story. But under Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, the United States and the United Kingdom both voted at the U.N. to block international sanctions against the South African regime. Despite their opposition, by the late 1980s, there was enough public momentum in favor of blocking trade to South Africa. There was enough in favor that the U.S. Congress passed something call the Comprehensive Antiapartheid Act in 1986. It banned all new investment in South Africa. It blocked the importing of most South African goods, and President Reagan was vehemently against it. He went so far as to use his presidential veto to try to stop it. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TV ANCHOR: Mr. Reagan, on Friday, vetoed a bill that imposes economic sanctions on South Africa. The bill limits U.S. investment in South Africa and bans U.S. imports of South African uranium, coal, steel, and agricultural products. Mr. Reagan is opposed to the sanctions, but he must convince at least 20 senators to change their position is if a veto is to be sustained. Both sides say that is unlikely. (END VIDEO CLIP) MADDOW: President Reagan`s veto was to the sustained. It was overridden by an overwhelming vote in both the House and the Senate, include many, many, many members of his own Republican Party. It was the first override of a presidential veto on a foreign policy issue in the century. And anti-apartheid leaders credit those sanctions and credit the private divestment movement around the United States and around the world with bringing about the pressure and the isolation that was necessary to eventually humble the apartheid regime. To humble the ruling South African government and bring them to the negotiations that eventually freed Nelson Mandela and brought him into the apartheid system. The fight here to do that was nothing compared to the fight in South Africa, but politically, it was a heck of a fight here, too. Joining us now is former California congressman and former Oakland mayor, Ron Dellums. He was the sponsor of the 1986 Antiapartheid Act. Congressman Dellums, it`s nice to see you. Thank you very much for being here. RON DELLUMS (D-CA), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It`s an honor to be here. I`m one of your great fans, my friend. MADDOW: Well, thank you. Tell me what led you to sponsor the Antiapartheid Act in the 1986? DELLUMS: A little-known fact in history is that a group of African- American employees of the Polaroid Company, which took pictures that were in the path books of black South Africans during the apartheid regime were inspired by the organization of the congressional black caucus in late 1971. They came down to Washington, D.C. because they were concerned about trying to make a statement of divestment, of Polaroid, and its partnership in the apartheid cooperation in the apartheid effort. The Congressional Black Caucus asked me to meet with these folks. I met with them and we agreed to put a peaceful legislation together and I kept reintroducing it for 15 years and fought every day for 15 years until we finally got it passed by the House of Representatives. But it was a small group of militant Polaroid workers who had the courage and the vision to help begin that process. MADDOW: When the other side in this American political fight argued against you, when Ronald Reagan`s side argued that, instead, they wanted engagement, that divestment would hurt the very people who you were trying to help and it would hurt black South Africans more than anybody, because they were economically disadvantaged -- how did you rebut those arguments? Why did you eventually win such an overwhelming vote? DELLUMS: Because people understood that if the folks who were feeling the oppression were the ones arguing for disinvestment, and they were, South Africans were arguing for divestment, black South Africans, activists, were arguing for disinvestment. So what we did was simply put into legislative form the screams of the people in South Africa who were feeling the pain and the activists in this country, coming out of the civil rights movement, who understood that pain and were willing to stand with them. So, we said, how can you, from the outside, make such a tragic argument? It was the moral imperative that eventually overcame these folks. MADDOW: And what -- to what degree do you think divestment in those sanctions ended up being a tipping point in South Africa? How important did it end up being, in conjunction with all the work that was, of course, being done by antiapartheid activists there and around the world? DELLUMS: A German journalist came to Washington, D.C. several years later, said that he had done a great deal of research. His research indicated that F.W. de Klerk and Margaret Thatcher had a conversation. F.W. de Klerk said to her, what do you think I should do? Her response was, the (INAUDIBLE) bill passed by voice vote two years ago, it passed again on a record vote this year. Now, the Democrats control the Senate. It will pass the Senate. This investment will become the law of the land. His response was, so what should I do? Her response was, free Mandela and begin to negotiate a new South Africa while you have leverage, because if disinvestment becomes the law of the United States, with cooperation around the world, you will have no leverage. And so he said, tell Mr. Dellums, that while this bill never became law, it hung over South Africa like the sword of Damocles. MADDOW: Wow. Well, California Congressman Ron Dellums, thank you very much for helping us understand this history on this night of all nights, sir. It`s invaluable to have your perspective here. Thank you so much. DELLUMS: It`s my honor, my friend. MADDOW: Thank you. Dan Rather is going to join us next. We`ll be right back. Stay with us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MANDELA: At the end, the bloodletting stopped. At the end, goodwill prevailed. At the end, the overwhelming majority, both black and white, decided to invest in peace. (APPLAUSE) (END VIDEO CLIP) (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: Our next guest is Dan Rather. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: Nelson Mandela arrives in America, a ready-made hero with a strong message. MANDELA: South Africa should be freed. ANNOUNCER: This is "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw, reporting tonight from NBC News headquarters in New York. BROKAW: Good evening. Nelson Mandela was honored by New York City today in a way usually reserved for presidents, astronauts, and hometown World Series champs. He came here to continue his campaign against apartheid and President Bush said today that U.S. sanctions would stay on until certain additional steps are taken. But for the most part, this was a day to celebrate Mandela. The man who spent 27 years in prison was given a hero`s welcome. Governor Mario Cuomo calling him a symbol of the indestructibility of the human spirit. The 71-year-old Mandela seemed tired and not quite ready for it all. Jesse Jackson gave him a hand with his tie. Mandela urged the United States to maintain its tough policy against South Africa, as blacks there struggle for equality. MANDELA: And the only way in which we can work together on this difficult road is for you to ensure that sanctions are applied. CROWD: Mandela! Mandela! BROKAW: Mandela and his wife, Winnie, stopped by a Brooklyn high school. They were greeted by 10,000 people. Then, New York City honored Mandela has no other city can. A ticker tape parade up Broadway. Mandela said he knew he had friends in New York, but never dreamed he was so loved. The key to the city from Mayor David Dinkins. Mandela then talked of unlocking the shackles of apartheid. MANDELA: We want those (ph) in South Africa, their country which vanishes forever, embraces them in all its forms. South Africa should be freed. This struggle continues. Thank you. OBAMA: I`m one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela`s life. 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. I would study his words and his writings. The day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they are guided by their hopes and not by their fears. 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. (END VIDEOTAPE) MADDOW: Joining us now is Dan Rather, a man who has interviewed Nelson Mandela numerous over the years, covered his life in times intensively. Dan is now the anchor of the special series, "The Big Interview" on AXS TV. Of course, he`s also a former anchor of the "CBS Evening News". Mr. Rather, it`s great to have you here. DAN RATHER, AXS TV: Great to be back with you, Rachel. MADDOW: I wanted to play that footage, that contemporaneous footage of him arriving in the United States after being freed. I didn`t want to show you because I didn`t want you to think that you were up your younger self. (LAUGHTER) RATHER: I appreciate that. MADDOW: You feel like I`m setting you back up against Brokaw in a way. RATHER: My friend Tom Brokaw did a great job that day. MADDOW: Yes. Well, I have to ask, having met him a number of times, having interviewed him a number of times, just your overall reaction to his passing, to his having lived to be 95 and to what he came to mean to the world before he died. RATHER: Well, Nelson Mandela was and remains in a straight historical line that runs from Mahatma Gandhi, to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the Mandela era, if you will, a towering figure in the last half of the 20th century and through the first decade of the 21st century, a towering figure because of his character and his determination, to change the balance of power if you will in terms of racial justice. MADDOW: When you interviewed him after his release from prison in 1990, what do you remember about -- what do you remember about that personal encounter with him? I mean, I`m struck by what Governor Cuomo said at the time, the indestructibility of the human spirit. I mean, he was not a world famous man when he went to prison. RATHER: No. MADDOW: He became famous in prison, spending 18 years on Robben Island, another years in prison after that, never broken, always expected to take up the leadership mantle after all that time and prove worthy of it. There was something about his human resilience which made him super human. RATHER: Well, resilience is a word that will always be associated with Nelson Mandela, that and determination and also of forgiveness. Through a colleague and friend, I was with Nelson Mandela in his home, the night he first came back to his home, and I was struck by how calm his demeanor was, how often he spoke of forgiveness. If there was any sense of revenge or pay back in the man, it was not apparent. I don`t think there was any. Now, he was the first to say, he was an imperfect person, an imperfect leader. He engaged in violence which he later regretted. He made his mistakes. But he was all about forgiveness. My most vivid memory of him that night was his absolute determination for reconciliation in his country and a sense of forgiveness. Now, a few days later, I had a one on one television camera interview with him and he expanded on that and talked eloquently about the desire for South Africa to move forward in the future. He had no illusions it was going to take a lot to reconcile the country, of course he accomplished that before his death. MADDOW: You covered his election for the presidency after he was released from prison, running against the man who released him from jail. Was it obvious to you back then that Nelson Mandela was going to win that election? Was the future of South Africa clearly written? RATHER: No. First of all, it was not assured that Mandela would be elected. I thought he probably would be, but it was by no means certain. Beyond that, there was no certainty that he would be able to reunite, to reconcile the country, which, of course, after he won the election, he took, made strides toward doing, but I do want to say the remarkable thing about Nelson Mandela, he never claimed to be a saint, he wasn`t. What made him the larger than life hero was his vulnerabilities, his weaknesses. The fact that he had done things that he wished he had not done. And that made him all the more human. And I think in that, a larger hero. But let`s have no mistake that there was, there is no greater leader than the last half of the 20th century and the first of 21st century than Nelson Mandela. MADDOW: Dan Rather, thank you very much for your time tonight, sir. RATHER: Thank you for having me, Rachel. It`s always a pleasure. MADDOW: Thank you. RATHER: Thank you. MADDOW: We`ll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK) MADDOW: The death of Nelson Mandela today was announced late this afternoon East Coast time. The government of South Africa has not yet released an official schedule of what`s going to happen now in the next few days. But what we can best understand is probably this. The government`s going to issue a formal notice about the memorial service over the course of the next 48 hours. Then, it will be three days after that announcement when the memorial service is actually be held. It will be held at the FNB Soccer Stadium in Soweto, which is huge. It sets more than 90,000 people. It was the site of Nelson Mandela`s first speech in Johannesburg after his release from prison. After the memorial service at that huge arena, Mr. Mandela`s body will lie in state at the Union Buildings, which is the official seat in the South African government in Pretoria. His body will lie there in state for three days of public viewing. And then, his body will travel home to the town of Qunu which is where he was born and where he will be buried at his family`s compound. Now, it is expected that U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter, Bush the elder, Bush the younger, Bill Clinton and, of course, President Obama will all travel to South Africa to pay respects, to the extent that their health allows it. The scale of the memorial and burial of Nelson Mandela, honestly, is expected to match those of Pope John Paul, and Winston Churchill, and people of that magnitude. When Dan Rather just said that he should be considered the greatest leader of the second half of the 20th century, that is how he is viewed around the world. His stature in the world is something that few people have ever known in modern history let alone in history. As the details of the arrangements for the next few days emerge, we will bring them to you right hire. And that does it for us tonight. Thank you for being with us. We`ll see you again tomorrow. Now, it`s time for "THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL". THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. 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