Tuesday, December 10, 2013

World Leaders and Dignitaries at Mandela Memorial & Text of Obama's Speech

The big news today was, of course, was Mandela's memorial from Johannesburg's FNB Stadium.

It was hailed by some as the single biggest official event in history.

Not sure if it achieved that or not, but it was an undeniably huge event. Nearly one hundred world leaders came to attend. For that matter, numerous ex-leaders were in attendance, including three former American Presidents, and three former Canadian Prime Ministers, who accompanied sitting Prime Minister Harper to South Africa. There were also "overflow venues" in the country that broadcast the event live. As such, you knew it was going to make headlines the world over, and it did.

For that matter, not all of the headlines were, strictly speaking, just centered around the numerous gestures and speeches praising the late Nelson Mandela.

The biggest news that seems to have come out of the event:

 - Current sitting South African President Zuma was roundly booed at the event, and he looked a bit shaken by the chilly reception he received. Many news outlets were critical of this, saying that the event honoring a great man was not the time to make partisan political statements of sort, or to make things personal. To that end, Archbishop Desmond Tutu chastised the people, trying to get them to behave, and keep rowdy sentiments in line. It was a very public humiliation for Zuma.

- In the meantime, by contrast with the boos and jeers that greeted Zuma, former South African presidents Thabo Mbeki and even FW DeKlerk (the last white President of the old apartheid regime) were given enthusiastic cheers when their names were called out.

 - President Obama was given a very positive reception, and he was really in his element today during his speech, evoking strong emotions while focusing on Mandela's personal impact on him, as a man and as a leader. The full text of his speech is included in this blog entry, down below.

 - President Obama shook the hands of Cuban leader, Raul Castro. This has been the biggest source of debate (at least on this side of the pond), with many speculating just how much this means, and how much we can read into it.

- Family members also honored the late Mandela.

- There was steady, heavy rain that looked every bit like a downpour from the images seen on television here. This was unusual, because it is nearly summertime in usually sunny South Africa.

That seems to be the major happenings that are being focused on and debated, at least, again, on this side of the Atlantic, in the United States.

Mandela's body will now be taken to Pretoria, where he took the historical oath of office to become South Africa's first black, democratically elected President in South African history.

On the 15th, he will be buried.

Here now is the text of Obama's speech from the Nelson Mandela memorial service today from FNB Stadium where he truly was at his best:

Taken from the Denver Post:

Text of President Obama's remarks at the Nelson Mandela memorial service in Johannesburg on Tuesday, as provided by the White House:

To Graca Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of state and government, past and present; distinguished guests: It is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life unlike any other. To the people of South Africa—people of every race and walk of life—the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogize any man, to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person—their private joys and sorrows, the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone's soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.
Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century. Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement—a movement that at its start held little prospect of success. Like King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed, and the moral necessity of racial justice. He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from prison, without force of arms, he would, like Lincoln, hold his country together when it threatened to break apart. Like America's founding fathers, he would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations—a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power.
Given the sweep of his life, and the adoration that he so rightly earned, it is tempting then to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men. But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. Instead, he insisted on sharing with us his doubts and fears, his miscalculations along with his victories. "I'm not a saint," he said, "unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying."
It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection—because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried—that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood—a son and husband, a father and a friend. That is why we learned so much from him; that is why we can learn from him still. For nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, persistence and faith. He tells us what's possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.
Mandela showed us the power of action, of taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited "a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness" from his father. Certainly he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of "a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments, . a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people."
But like other early giants of the ANC—the Sisulus and Tambos—Madiba disciplined his anger and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand up for their dignity. Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. "I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination," he said at his 1964 trial. "I've cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."
Mandela taught us the power of action, but also ideas, the importance of reason and arguments, the need to study not only those you agree with, but those who you don't. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper's bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and passion, but also his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement. And he learned the language and customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depended upon his.
Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough; no matter how right, they must be chiseled into laws and institutions. He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history. On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of conditional release, reminding the apartheid regime that "prisoners cannot enter into contracts." But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal. And because he was not only a leader of a movement, but a skillful politician, the constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African.
Finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa—Ubuntu—that describes his greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that can be invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. We can never know how much of this was innate in him, or how much of was shaped and burnished in a dark, solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small—introducing his jailors as honored guests at his inauguration; taking the pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family's heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS—that revealed the depth of his empathy and understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu; he taught millions to find that truth within themselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.
For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba's passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate his heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?
It is a question I ask myself as a man and as a President. We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are the beneficiaries of that struggle. But in America and South Africa, and countries around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality and universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease, run-down schools and few prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs and are still persecuted for what they look like, or how they worship or who they love.
We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba's legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. And there are too many of us who stand on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.
The questions we face today—how to promote equality and justice, to uphold freedom and human rights, to end conflict and sectarian war—do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers in front of that child in Qunu. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows us that is true. South Africa shows us we can change. We can choose to live in a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.
We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world: You can make his life's work your own. Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land. It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities, to others and to myself, and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside us. After this great liberator is laid to rest, when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength, for his largeness of spirit, somewhere inside ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our reach, think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell:
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
What a great soul it was. We will miss him deeply. May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God bless the people of South Africa.

Here is a bit more, including quotes from other leaders in attendance today, "Speeches from leaders, family at Mandela memorial" Wednesday 11 Dec 2013: http://www.3news.co.nz/Speeches-from-leaders-family-at-Mandela-memorial/tabid/417/articleID/324649/Default.aspx

Quotes from leaders and family at the memorial
World leaders, family, friends and thousands of mourners who queued for hours to secure a seat in Johannesburg's FNB stadium paid tribute to South Africa's anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.
Here's a selection of quotes from the speeches at the memorial service and from mourners attending the event compiled by The Associated Press:
Mandela family friend Andrew Mlangeni said in his opening remarks Mandela "created hope where there was none." "He touched my heart, my soul, my life and those of the millions of South Africans," he added.
"To him, life was all about service to others," said family member Gen. Thanduxolo Mandela. "He mingled with kings, queens and presidents ... At the core, he was a man of the people."
"Let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela: The ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle, to freedom and justice , a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation," Cuban President Raul Castro said through a translator. "As Mandela's life teaches us, only the concerted effort of all nations will empower humanity to respond to the enormous challenges that today threatens its very existence," he said, appealing for a global Mandela-inspired spirit of unity.
"Mr. Mandela was more than one of the greatest pillars of our time," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his speech at the service. "He was one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example. He sacrificed so much ... for freedom and equality, for democracy and justice."
"He also was a source of inspiration for similar struggles in Brazil and across South America," Brazilian President President Dilma Rousseff said through a translator. "His fight reached way beyond his nation's border and inspired young men and women to fight for independence and social justice."
"Mr. Mandela was the pride of the African people," Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao said through a translator. "He has dedicated his entire life to the development and progress of the African content."
"His life was just an extraordinary journey, from beginning to end, with such an effect, both on his own country, and on the rest of the world," former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said before the service. "So, enjoy today, enjoy and celebrate what he achieved. We may not see his like again."
"I think Madiba would like us to celebrate and not be sad, to have smiles on our faces," said Muhammad Choonara, a 24-year-old university student, said during the memorial. Madiba is Mandela's clan name that most South African use as an endearment when speaking about the former president.
"Mandela was a very humble man and he gave himself to the world. He sacrificed time with his family for us and for me. It is a privilege to be here, it is a humbling experience," said Dipolelo Moshe, 35, who works for a marketing company. She had a South African flag draped over her shoulders and was carrying a big photo of Mandela as she stood in line at the stadium.
"I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him. I'm here to show my gratitude to Madiba. He was jailed so we could have our freedom," said Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, 24, a marketing student, as she lined up to enter the stadium.

More quotes, taken from "The Mandela memorial: key quotes" by AFP – 6 hours ago:  


How Nelson Mandela was remembered at Tuesday's memorial service in Soweto:
-- US President Barack Obama: "He was not a bust made of marble, he was a man of flesh and blood." "It is hard to eulogize any man ... how much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation towards justice."
Quoting the poem "Invictus", which inspired Mandela in jail, he said: "'I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul'. What a magnificent soul it was -- we will miss him deeply."
-- South African President Jacob Zuma: "There is no one like Madiba. He was one of a kind." "He never wanted to be viewed as a messiah or a saint... Rest in peace, our father and our hero."
-- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon: "He has done it again.... We see leaders representing many points of view, and people from all walks of life. All here, united." "He showed the awesome power of forgiveness -- and of connecting people with each other... the true meaning of peace."
-- General Thanduxolo Mandela, on behalf of the family: "Madiba was a great man but was humble in all things."
-- Cuban President Raul Castro, quoting his brother Fidel: "Mandela will not go down in history for the 27 years he spent behind bars... but because he was able to free his soul from the poison that such injust punishment can cause."
-- Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff: "Madiba is an example and a reference for us all... we celebrate and mourn for this great leader who was part of the Pantheon of humanity."
-- British Prime Minister David Cameron: "It is clear that people here in South Africa want to, yes, say goodbye to this great man, yes commemorate what he did but also celebrate his life and celebrate his legacy."
-- Andrew Mlangeni, Mandela friend and fellow Robben Island inmate: "Madiba is looking down on us now and is no doubt smiling as he watches his beloved countrymen and women celebrate his life and legacy."

-- ANC vice-president Cyril Ramaphosa: "When it rains when you are buried, it means your gods are welcoming you and the gates of heaven are most probably open as well." "His long walk is over, he can finally rest."

Here is the order of events as they were planned for earlier today, "Everything you need to know about Mandela memorials" Yahoo South Africa NewsYahoo South Africa News – Sat, Dec 7, 2013


"Nelson Mandela memorial: Obama lauds 'giant of history'" published by BBC, December 10, 2013:


"Nelson Mandela Memorial Draws Mourners And World Leaders To South Africa's Soweto Stadium" CP by Jon Gambrell And Alan Clendenning, The Associated Press Posted: 12/10/2013:


"Mandela memorial binds South Africans" by Pumza Fihlani BBC News, Johannesburg  December 10, 2013"


"World leaders join South Africans to celebrate Mandela’s life" December 10, 2013 - 8:53am JON GAMBRELL, JULIE PACE AND ALAN CLENDENNING THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:


"'Dignified' South Africans praised", Tuesday 10th December 2013 in National News © Press Association 2013:


"Obama: Make Mandela's life work your own" Associated Press by  Julie Pace


Here is a website that tries to document the event in pictures:


"A farewell like no other for great unifier", Sunday Dec 8, 2013, published by The New Zealand Herald:


ABC News coverage of some of Zuma's speech today - "S.A. President Zuma Says Mandela Paid Dearly for His Beliefs At memorial service, South African leader speaks of Nelson Mandela's legacy of freedom and democracy." 12/10/2013 :


Obama urges world to act on Mandela's legacy  News & FeaturesJOHANNESBURG (AP) · Dec 10, 2013:


"Nelson Mandela death: Crowds gather to pay tribute" from BBC News:


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