President Barack Obama addressed over 90,000 mourners today (December 10) at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa at the memorial for former South African president and legendary freedom fighter Nelson Mandela.
Obama was joined by several world leaders in what was billed as one of the largest gatherings of global leaders in recent history. Nelson Mandela died Thursday at age 95.
“We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” Obama said to roaring cheers from the crowd.
“To the people of South Africa — people of every race and every walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us,” he said, calling him a “giant of history” and repeatedly referring to Mandela as Madiba, his clan name. The crowd also chanted Tata Madiba. Tata means “father” in Mandela’s Xhosa tribe.
The ceremony had a celebratory mood despite gray skies and pouring rain. People were dancing, blowing vuvuzela plastic horns and singing songs from the anti-apartheid struggle throughout the event.
“There is no one like Madiba. He was one of a kind,” current South African President Jacob Zuma said.
President Obama went on to say that Mandela’s life and death should prompt everyone to reflect on their own lives.
“With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life?” Obama said.
“It is a question I ask myself, as a man and as a president. We know that like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifices of countless people, known and unknown — to see the dawn of a new day.”
Mandela’s body will lie in state at the Union Buildings, the seat of government in South Africa’s capital, Pretoria, from Wednesday to Friday. He will be buried Sunday in Qunu, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate’s rural hometown in Eastern Cape Province.
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