“The world will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again”, this from President Barack Obama in his speech before tens of thousands gathered in the rain Tuesday morning at Mandela’s memorial service in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Obama said young people should know they can make Mandela’s life work their own. He remarked that Mandela’s death should prompt a time for mourning and celebration, but it should also prompt a time of self reflection. Obama said people should ask themselves how well they’ve applied Mandela’s lessons in their own life.
Obama took time to compare Mandela to other champions of human rights in his address seen around the globe. He said that like Mahatma Gandhi, Mandela started a movement in the face of overwhelming odds. Obama also compared Mandela to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior in that he gave voice to the oppressed, and to Lincoln for holding a country together that threatened to fall apart. Obama praised the elder human rights hero for being full of good humor despite the heavy burdens he carried in the overthrow of apartheid.
Obama also made some remarks that may have ruffled the feathers of some of the other world leaders at the event. He said too many world leaders are quick to say they’re inspired by Mandela, but they don’t tolerate dissent from their own people. The comment was made in front of the presidents of China, Cuba, and Zimbabwe.
The South African soccer stadium hosting the memorial is the same where Mandela made his last public appearance.