On Tuesday, President Barack Obama stood in the drizzling rain to eulogize a man who he credits for his own activism, former South African President Nelson Mandela.
Attending the official memorial service at the FNB stadium in Johannesburg with First Lady Michelle Obama, George W. Bush, wife Laura, and the Clintons, Obama called Mandela the “last great liberator of the 20th century,” praising him for lifting children out of poverty and leading a nation to freedom.
But most importantly, Obama remarked on Mandela’s ability to see that all humans are bound together, and that we must work with one another to make a real change in this world.
“It took a man like Madiba,” Obama said, invoking Mandela’s clan name, “to free not just the prisoner, but the jailor as well, to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you, to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth.”
The President also mentioned that while Mandela broke barriers in peace and unity, there is still much to be done around the world.
“Around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today.”
“After this great liberator is laid to rest, when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength — for his largeness of spirit — somewhere inside ourselves,” Obama said.
It was a historic moment — the first black president of the United States eulogizing the first black president of South Africa.
Another moment came when two countries put aside their differences to remember the world’s greatest leader. Before speaking to the cheering crowds, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, marking the country’s first greeting in public involving a president of the United States since the Cuban revolution.