Word of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s death Thursday sparked an outpouring of responses and personal recollections from around the world.
Here are some of them:
South African President Jacob Zuma
“Our thoughts are with the South African people, who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nation. Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause. This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son.”
U.S. President Barack Obama
“My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or 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’re guiding by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe I cannot imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so as long as I live, I will do my best to do what I can to learn from him.”
Tokyo Sexwale, who was imprisoned with Mandela on Robben Island
“Nelson Mandela demonstrated that leadership is not about power, but on the contrary, about honor. That is what we learned from Nelson Mandela during the dark days with him on Robben Island. Today he is seen as an icon in the world, whose teachings, principles and values need to be embraced by all. He was embraced even by even white wardens, his own jailers, because he demonstrated that through the power of dialogue…people on different sides, former enemies, can come together. That’s how we in South Africa were able to resolve our intractable problems created by the racist system of apartheid.
“My cell was only about 2-3 meters away from his cell. His cell was small, but it contained a very formidable and larger than life figure.”
“President Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as someone who gave up so much of his life in the struggle for freedom, so that millions could have a brighter future.”
Retired Gen. Colin Powell, former U.S. secretary of state
“I knew him. I had dinner with him. I had conversations with him, and what always struck me was his humbleness. He was a humble, gentle, warm person, even though he was a fighter on the military stage as well as the political stage. … He approached everybody he met as a fellow human being and equal to him, and that’s what I remember.”
U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel of New York
“African-Americans have really been denied what most Americans enjoy. And that is their history, from where they came from. Not only were our names taken away, our culture, our songs, our history, our language, but Africans were demonized. When I was a kid, the worst thing you could do was call anyone an African.
“But when Nelson Mandela came on the scene, where every black kid could say, ‘Gee mom, that great guy looks just like me, doesn’t he?’ He has given to African-Americans something that you can’t get out of churches and you couldn’t get out of schools. He gave us an identity to know. When God made him, and made us to look like him, he was thinking about all of us. And so I don’t know what it takes for God to pick up a saint, but I’ll tell you one thing, he’d win in any election for sainthood, all over the world.”
Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls basketball player
“I wish they would pause everything so the whole world can give thanks.”
“In the end, Nelson Mandela showed us how to love rather than hate, not because he had never surrendered to rage or violence, but because he learnt that love would do a better job. Mandela played with the highest stakes. He put his family, his country, his time, his life on the line, and he won most of these contests. Stubborn til the end for all the right reasons, it felt like he very nearly outstared his maker. Today, finally, he blinked. And some of us cry, knowing our eyes were opened to so much because of him.”
Richard Branson, CEO of Virgin Group Ltd.
“He had a wicked sense of humor, a twinkle in his eye. He would burst into singing and dancing. And yet at the same time, there was a serious side to him. He set up a wonderful organization called The Elders in order for his legacy to live on. He took time and trouble appointing six wonderful men and women…and he asked them to continue his legacy after he’d gone.”
Oprah Winfrey, media entrepreneur, talk show host, actress
“One of the great honors of my life was to be invited to Nelson Mandela’s home, spend private time and get to know him. He was everything you’ve ever heard and more — humble and unscathed by bitterness. And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time. He will always be my hero. His life was a gift to us all.”
Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister
“We in Iran join the people of South Africa in mourning the death of Nelson Mandela, who inspired humanity with his courage and compassion.”