President Obama celebrated Nelson Mandela as the “last great liberator of the 20th century” Tuesday before a cheering crowd and host of world leaders who gathered in a soccer stadium in Soweto to pay tribute to the former freedom fighter and first black president of South Africa.
Describing the “great soul” of a man who conquered apartheid and became a “giant of history” by peacefully ushering in the country’s first era of biracial government, Obama said, “It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well.”
Amid an unrivalled collection of the world’s most powerful leaders, Obama shook hands with Cuban president Raúl Castro and kissed Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president, before taking to the stage to give one of the day’s most rapturously received eulogies, five days after the death of Mandela, who is known affectionately as Madiba.
Obama said it was not enough to merely celebrate the life of a great man, he called on those leaders sitting alongside him and millions more people watching on television to take inspiration from Mandela’s achievements. "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,” he said. “When the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best laid plans seem beyond our reach, think of Madiba.”
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