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Remembering Nelson Mandela, 1918-2013

We take the measure of a moral hero, South Africa’s anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela reacts at the Mandela foundation, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday June 2, 2009, during a meeting with a group of American and South African students as part of a series of activities leading to Mandela Day on July 18th. The anti-apartheid leader died in his home on Dec. 5, 2013.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela reacts at the Mandela foundation, in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday June 2, 2009, during a meeting with a group of American and South African students as part of a series of activities leading to Mandela Day on July 18th. The anti-apartheid leader died in his home on Dec. 5, 2013.

Nelson Mandela was a hero, and then more.  That rare, transcendent figure who through struggle and vision and breakthrough becomes a moral inspiration to the world.  For decades, he was the imprisoned figure of defiance and liberation struggle for South Africans under the brutal racial oppression of apartheid.  And then he emerged from prison smiling.  Radiant.  A freedom fighter who became an avatar of reconciliation.  Now he has died, at 95.  And the world turns to consider the full measure of the man.  This hour On Point: the meaning of Nelson Mandela.

– Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Peter Wonacott, Africa bureau chief for The Wall Street Journal.

Janet Heard, assistant editor and head of news at Cape Times.

Douglas Foster, journalist and author of “After Mandela: The Struggle For Freedom In Post-Apartheid South Africa.”

Penelope Andrews, President and Dean of Albany Law School. South African native and author of “The Post Apartheid Constitutions: Perspectives on South Africa’s Basic Law.”

Heinz Klug, professor of law at the University of Wisconsin. South African native and former member of South Africa’s ANC Land Commission.

From Tom’s Reading List

NPR: Nelson Mandela, Inspiration To World, Dies At 95 — “From his childhood as a herd boy, Mandela went on to lead the African National Congress’ struggle against the racially oppressive, apartheid regime of South Africa. For his efforts, he spent 27 years behind bars as a political prisoner. In 1994, after Mandela was elected president in South Africa’s first democratic elections, Archbishop Desmond Tutu shook with elation as he welcomed Mandela to a rally in Cape Town.’One man inspires us all. One man inspires the whole world,’ Tutu said at the time. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, friends, fellow South Africans, welcome our brand new state president — out of the box: Nelson Mandela.’”

Bloomberg News: Nelson Mandela, Who Led South Africa Past Apartheid, Dies at 95 – “Released from prison in 1990, Mandela negotiated a peaceful end to the old regime with leaders of South Africa’s white minority government. Three years later, he won the Nobel Peace Prize. He served as president from 1994 to 1999, before stepping down voluntarily. Mandela came to symbolize proof that seemingly intractable disputes could be resolved. Former Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, East Timorese independence leader Xanana Gusmao and warring factions in Burundi all asked him to help mediate conflicts. On his part, Mandela never wavered from espousing non-violence after the settlement talks began.”

The Nation: The Meaning Of Mandela — “To fully grasp the meaning of Nelson Mandela’s death, at the age of 95, imagine for a moment that his life had turned out differently. What if he’d perished as a child, like so many youngsters of his generation in the rural backwaters of the Transkei? Think of what might have happened, or not happened, if he’d died in the mines of the City of Gold, Johannesburg, where he arrived as a young man after running away from his village. Of course, he survived not only the privations of apartheid—that savage and extreme system of racial segregation—but also the long liberation struggle as well.”

Read An Excerpt Of “After Mandela: The Struggle for Freedom in Post-Apartheid South Africa” by Douglas Foster

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  • buncombe

    In 1986, Mandela was central to a nearly-forgotten but seminal debate in the US Senate, leading to the first twentieth century override of a presidential veto on foreign policy. Sanctions worked, Mitch McConnell was a moderate hero, and the Cheney wing of the GOP suffered a humiliating defeat.

    • WorriedfortheCountry

      Ancient politics is your first thought while we should be celebrating this great man’s life?

      • StilllHere

        Haters gotta hate.

        • 1Brett1

          No, a “hater” would call you an idiot…while true, that would be mean.

          • StilllHere

            Keep hating if it makes you feel big, but we all know why you do.

          • 1Brett1

            Your hypocrisy would be astounding, but I consider the source.

          • StilllHere

            You don’t “consider” anything before posting, that’s clear.

          • 1Brett1

            Just take my last reply and read it again.

          • StilllHere

            Same to you.

      • 1Brett1

        Attacking another commentator’s post was your first thought while we should be celebrating this great man’s life?

        • WorriedfortheCountry

          Gee Brett, given this was the first post it deserved to be called out as an inappropriate tone setter for “remembering Mandela”.

          On reflection of your comment, I probably would have ignored it if wasn’t the first comment. Given the snark of your reply we can conclude that you are OK with the tone set by buncombe or do you want to reflect a bit?

          • 1Brett1

            So, that’s two comments of yours that criticize other commentators, yet not a single mention/sentiment on your part about “celebrating this great man’s life.” …I find your indignation to be feigned.

            Also, your tactic of saying I must be in complete agreement with buncombe, simply because unlike you I didn’t seize an opportunistic moment to display phony self-righteousness, is quite cheap.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Gee Brett, critiquing comments is quite common on these threads. However, condemning the ACT of critiquing comments is quite unusual. Congratulations for being unique and obsessed.

          • 1Brett1

            Gee, Worried, that’s funny. I guess you were “critiquing” and I was “condemning.” Okay.

            That’s three comments from you and no “celebration of this great man’s life” in any of them.

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            And that is three comments from you and no comment on the appropriateness of the tone setting to start off this thread.

          • 1Brett1

            Am I obligated to criticize buncombe’s post? Was there something inaccurate about his post?

            I was calling you out (to borrow one of your tired phrases that intimates some sort of superiority over his commentary) for your hypocrisy. You claim that buncombe’s post was inappropriate for mentioning Mandela’s positive influence over members of our own government, that he was not celebrating Mandela’s contribution to this world in his comment, yet you’ve now spent four comments criticizing buncombe, me, and accusing me of having opinions I haven’t expressed, all while complaining about the tone of other comments. None of your comments contained anything about a “celebration” of Mandela’s life. I never claimed to have any obligation to express anything; you claim others are wrong in their commentary, and for the very thing you are engaging in.

            Maybe you should become more familiar conceptually with the word hypocrite.

            Or are you just tone deaf and lacking in any self-awareness?

          • WorriedfortheCountry

            Amazing.

            What opinion did I attribute falsely to you? I don’t see any. I accused you of snark.

            Again, I was simply expressing the exact sentiment that John_in_Amherst later expressed. Let’s keep politics out of it while celebrating Mandela’s achievements.

            You apparently disagreed or you wouldn’t have issued your response. I called you out on it and it continues on and on.

  • Fiscally_Responsible

    Nelson Mandela was a great man and worthy of acknowledgment. However, several months ago when Margaret Thatcher, long time prime minister of our closest and most important ally died, the Obama Administration sent NO ONE and did not acknowledge her role in any way. If the Obama Administration now sends anyone, particularly a high level person such as Kerry, Biden, or Obama himself, then this administration can legitimately be accused of racism.

    • Leonard Bast

      “The ANC [African National Congress, of which Mandela was president] is a typical terrorist organisation … Anyone who thinks it is going to run the government in South Africa is living in cloud-cuckoo land” – Margaret Thatcher, 1987

    • John_in_Amherst

      you are wrong. And there is no comparison between Thatcher, one of the 20th century’s most divisive and mean-spirited politicians, and Mandela, one of the most transcendent moral giants of this or any other age.

      • Fiscally_Responsible

        Your are entitled to your opinion, but not your facts. And the fact of the matter is that Obama did not send anyone from his administration because of politics and possibly race.

        • John_in_Amherst

          you are in his inner circle, I know….

      • WorriedfortheCountry

        You should have taken your own advice and ‘given us all a break’.

        • John_in_Amherst

          I did not start this thread, and I am not compelled to remain wordless in the face of bigoted nonsense

          • StilllHere

            Your nonsense is postracial I guess?

          • John_in_Amherst

            “postracial” will happen when all our progeny are a mocha brown mix, i.e.: never. it is up to each of us to transcend the superficial boundaries imposed by race. Mandela’s life was a beacon for all of us.

          • StilllHere

            Would Mandela use the term bigoted nonsense? I don’t think so.

          • John_in_Amherst

            I only aspire to his equanimity, grace and wisdom. He certainly knew bigoted nonsense, even without uttering the phrase. And he never wasted his time engaging cranks on talk radio comment sections.

          • StilllHere

            You come up way short but keep aspiring!

          • jefe68

            These chaps are really showing their true colors today. Man, what a bunch.

    • jefe68

      Thatcher? You have to be kidding.

      The level of desperation in trying to tie anything and everything to president Obama to bolster any right wing meme by the regressive right is pathetic.

      • Steve__T

        I was not allowed to reply directly to you in my own words of agreement, so I had to find and post directly to fiscal.
        Disqus would have it no other way.

    • Steve__T

      Despite growing international pressure in the 1980s, the apartheid government received strong backing from the Reagan administration and Margaret Thatcher in Britain. The African National Congress was considered a terrorist organization by both nations. Mandela was listed on the U.S. terrorist watch list until 2008

      http://www.democracynow.org/2013/12/6/randall_robinson_on_nelson_mandela_us

  • John_in_Amherst

    Is it too much to ask the trolls of both left and right to give us all a break while we celebrate the life of one of the greatest men to have lived during our lives?

    This links to the text and full audio of Mandela speaking at his trial:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/world/nelson-mandela-rivonia-trial-speech/?hpid=z3

    Stunned silent, punctuated by sobs, followed his concluding remarks, some of the most heroic words anyone could utter.

  • alsordi

    Mandela was a rarity, a truly great courageous leader, who survived years of prison to overcome the apartheid regime.

    I am surprised that he got to live to 95 years old without being poisoned like Yasar Arafat.

  • http://neilblanchard.blogspot.com/ Neil Blanchard

    Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela had moral authority. Because he was morally right.

    We all need to live our lives morally.

  • nycXpat

    It seems that we have in unspoken demand that oppressed people around the world throw off the yolks of their oppressors using exclusively nonviolent means.

    At the same time, we exalt those who started and fought the Revolutionary War.

    Are we only looking at the parts of Mandela’s, South Africa’s story that makes us, you comfortable?

  • 228929292AABBB

    Respect for the dead and all, but a full discussion of Nelson Mandela’s legacy would include an analysis of the descent of South Africa from a successful but racist (against blacks) country to a failing and racist (against whites) country after Mandela’s moral victory.

    • jefe68

      I guess you and Ted Cruz have a lot in common.

      • 228929292AABBB

        I am guessing you have not been to South Africa recently.

        • jefe68

          Are you just a wanker all the time or only when it suits your right wing agenda?

        • StilllHere

          Most likely never, but his insults are universal.

          • jefe68

            Troll.

          • jefe68

            Desperate troll, so sad and pathetic.

  • m2cts

    Wondering whether Fidel Castro will attend the funeral.

  • m2cts

    The Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), issued the following statement on the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela:

    “As we begin to grieve the death of Nelson Mandela, I am reminded of his words, ‘I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.’

    As members of a faith community committed to equity and justice, we remember the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela. He shines as an example of how one person can change the world and make it a better place.

    Today and every day let us face our own fears of the unknown and the misunderstood. Remember Nelson Mandela’s words so that we may embrace that fear, conquer it, be courageous, and change the world.”

  • m2cts

    As the world remembers Mandela, here are some of the things he believed that many will gloss over.
    1. Mandela blasted the Iraq War and American imperialism.
    2. Mandela called freedom from poverty a “fundamental human right.”
    3. Mandela criticized the “War on Terror” and the labeling of individuals as terrorists, even Osama Bin Laden, without due process.
    4. Mandela called out racism in America.
    5. Mandela embraced some of America’s biggest political enemies. 6. Mandela was a die-hard supporter of labor unions.
    Details at http://thinkprogress.org/home/2013/12/06/3030781/nelson-mandela-believed-people-wont-talk/

  • jefe68

    I knew that Steve, but this chap was on about Thatcher. In fact Reagan and his administration were on opposite sides of the his own party with the sanctions.

  • Fredlinskip

    Did Mandela die?

    Does this mean his ‘reign of terror’ as defined by Reagan Republicans is now over?

    • StilllHere

      Not sure, but your reign of inanity continues unperturbed.

      • Fredlinskip

        Who you calling an inanyist?

        Made any positive contributions to any conversations lately?

        • jefe68

          He’s a troll, it’s the way they roll.

        • StilllHere

          Yes, as measured against you, for sure. Mandela would agree.

          • Fredlinskip

            All righty then.

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