Tens of thousands gathered at the FNP Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg today for a memorial to honor Nelson Mandela, who died last week at the age of 95. Nearly 100 heads of state traveled to South Africa for the memorial, including President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro. Mandela’s body will then lie in state for three days at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where he was sworn in as president in 1994. He will be buried on Sunday in Qunu, his ancestral home. We begin our coverage of the memorial with President Obama’s address. "It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well," Obama said. "While I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man."
At today’s memorial for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff was among the foreign leaders to honor the former South African president and anti-apartheid leader. "He also was a source of inspiration for similar struggles in Brazil and across South America," Rousseff said. "His fight reached way beyond his nation’s border and inspired young men and women to fight for independence and social justice."
Cuban President Raúl Castro was among the speakers at today’s memorial to Nelson Mandela. In an unprecedented exchange, President Obama shook Castro’s hand as he made his way to speak at the podium. "Let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela,” Castro said. "The ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle, to freedom and justice, a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation. 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." We also air a video clip of the 1991 meeting between Mandela and Fidel Castro in Cuba.
Former archbishop of Cape Town and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Desmond Tutu attended today’s memorial for Nelson Mandela, but did not speak. But he led a lively tribute Monday evening to honor his close friend. After the fall of apartheid, Tutu headed the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is now 82 years old. The intimate gathering where Tutu spoke in Johannesburg was hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the first woman to lead the organization, spoke at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. She is a former anti-apartheid activist who served as South Africa’s minister of health from 1994 to 1999 under President Mandela. She recalled how Mandela was part of a broader Pan-African struggle for independence. "Wherever he went on our continent, doors were opened, he got military training, and he got support for the struggle," she said.
We end our special coverage of the Nelson Mandela memorial with a video message delivered by the renowned poet and author Dr. Maya Angelou in his memory. They first met in 1962 before he was imprisoned. "Yes, Mandela’s day is done," Angelou said. "Yet we, his inheritors, will open the gates wider for reconciliation. And we will respond generously to the cries of blacks and whites, Asians, Hispanics, the poor who live piteously on the floor of our planet."
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