Obama: Make Mandela's life work your own
by Julie Pace, AP White House Correspondent
December 10, 2013 12:40 PM | 461 views | 1 1 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In this image from TV, U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, in the rain for a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013.  (AP Photo/SABC Pool)
In this image from TV, U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Cuban President Raul Castro at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, in the rain for a memorial service for former South African President Nelson Mandela, Tuesday Dec. 10, 2013. (AP Photo/SABC Pool)
slideshow

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Celebrating one of his personal heroes, President Barack Obama praised Nelson Mandela as the last great liberator of the 20th century, urging the world to carry on his legacy by fighting inequality, poverty and discrimination.

At a memorial service in Johannesburg, Obama compared the former South African President to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.

"Nothing he achieved was inevitable," Obama said. "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."

The crowd at the half-filled stadium erupted in applause each time Obama's name was mentioned or his image was shown on the screen. Dozens gathered below the box seats where Obama and other U.S. presidents sat, waving and snapping pictures of the leaders.

As if to underscore the spirit of reconciliation that Mandela's life embodied, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro as he made his way down a line of world leaders gathered to honor the anti-apartheid leader. It was a rare moment of accord for the leaders of the two Cold War enemies.

Calling himself a beneficiary of Mandela's struggle, Obama traced the influence that Mandela's story has had on his own life, disclosing that he asks himself how well he's applied Mandela's lessons to himself as a man and as president.

He said in the U.S., South Africa and around the world, people must not allow progress that's been made to cloud the fact that more work must be done.

"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," Obama said, referring to Mandela by his traditional clan name.

Extolling Mandela as practical but unyielding on his core principles, Obama said it was because Mandela could admit to being imperfect that the world loved him and continues to learn so much from his example. "He was not a bust made of marble. He was a man of flesh and blood," Obama said.

He said Mandela had changed both laws and hearts, inspiring those around him by reconciling with the jailers who kept him prisoner for 27 years. In trusting others despite the injustices he suffered, Mandela showed that the cruelty of the past must be confronted with truth, generosity and inclusion, Obama said.

"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," Obama said. "But let me say to the people of Africa, and young people around the world: You can make his life's work your own."

Joining Obama on the 16-hour trip from Washington for the ceremony were first lady Michelle Obama, former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter also attended the memorial service.

___

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC



Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments
(1)
Comments-icon Post a Comment
Lib in Cobb
|
December 11, 2013
The mouth breathing, right wing whistle nuts of our nation are frothing at the mouth over the handshake between President Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro.

It's only a handshake. Nelson Mandela would have wanted it this way. The handshake was not an impeachable act of treason.

The handshake was the right thing to do. John McCain has something stupid to say about this minor act of kindness. McCain is still not yet over the beat down of 2008. "The election is over John", President Obama, shortly after the 2008 election.
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides