What is your reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela?

Photo courtesy of Mayibuye/Robben Island

“Nelson Mandela, who was born in a country that viewed him as a second-class citizen, died Thursday as one of the most respected statesmen in the world. He was 95,” writes NPR’s Jason Beaubien.

In April 1994, the world watched as millions of South Africans — most of them jubilant, but many wary — cast their ballots in that nation’s first multiracial election. The outcome: Nelson Mandela became president of a new South Africa.

Mandela’s journey from freedom fighter to president capped a dramatic half-century-long struggle against white rule and the institution of apartheid. This five-part series, originally produced in 2004, marked the 10th anniversary of South Africa’s first free election.

Produced for NPR by Joe Richman of Radio Diaries and Sue Johnson, Mandela: An Audio History tells the story of the struggle against apartheid through rare sound recordings of Mandela himself, as well as those who fought with and against him.

Mandela: A Rare Success As Liberation Leader And President

There are many examples of triumphant liberation leaders and successful political leaders, but it’s rare to find someone who has managed the transition from one to the other.

George Washington did it in the 18th century. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk of Turkey did it after World War I. And Nelson Mandela also belongs to this exclusive club.

“It is hard enough to find someone courageous enough to lead a revolution, rarer still for them to have remarkable leadership skills,” says Jack Goldstone, director of the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University. (NPR)

Today’s Question: What is your reaction to the death of Nelson Mandela?

  • Jim G

    Nelson Mandela learned to forgive his jailers. Because he choose redemption rather than retribution, he acted as a model for how his country should react during its transformation into a democracy. Forgiving … frees us all.

    • Jim

      I am happy that he chose redemption as well. I wonder why we are not mentioning that he was a socialist and a terrorist, aligned with Castro and the USSR. He was jailed because he started an organization that was involved in the killing countless civilians, with very inhumane methods?

      This is a story of redemption, however, South America is going through something similar to what the US went through following our own Civil War. Both sides were responsible for atrocities and they are working through it. Glad he eventually turned to peaceful methods.

      • Jim

        Wow South America. That is an obvious Auto-correct typo. South Africa.

        • Jim G

          He lived a very long time and he changed as he became a student of nonviolence. As a young man, filled the sense of injustice, he chose violence. However, his 27 years in prison kept him alive… learning about nonviolent struggles against malavent, omnipresent power. It was probably the best thing that his captors could do to him, for he learned a new way to fight…peacefully against injustice and inequality.

  • PaulJ

    I worry if SA can hang on w/o him.

  • James

    Mainly
    I’m amazed by his popularity. He reminds me a little bit of Mohammed Alli. The world loves him, particularly in old age,
    but was largely unaffected by him. South
    Africa was a horrible little country 10,000 miles from here run by a bunch of
    white supremacists. Now it’s a dangerous and horrible
    little country run somewhat democratically by the black majority, maybe. Apparently the whites who remain still have
    about 99% of the wealth and the blacks still mainly live in poverty, although with
    basic human rights. Mandela’s is a great
    story. His broader impact seems a little
    overstated.

  • AndyBriebart

    He divorced Winnie pretty fast once out of prison. She and the ANC liked to “Necklace” people.

    He did a great job in changing the power structure in South Africa without turning the whole country into a big mess, unlike many of the other revolutions in Africa.

    • Jamie

      FYI younger TQ readers – Necklacing is the practice of summary execution and torture carried out by forcing a rubber tire, filled with petrol, around a victim’s chest and arms, and setting it on fire. The victim may take up to 20 minutes to die, suffering severe burns in the process.

  • Amy

    When I was kid, he was doing amazing things that I didn’t understand. Now that I’m an adult and I can appreciate the more complicated issues of being human, I’m thrilled to know that I shared the earth with this man. He is truly an inspiration. If we all put half the effort into our lives as he did, imagine what this world would be like! We are extremely fortunate to have had a man like Mandela in our lifetime.

  • Scott44

    Rest in Peace!

  • John

    I keep thinking of Israel and the apartheid that is prevalent there. How it would be good if we could have an Israeli like Mandela who would step up and take control of the everyday racist issues against Africans, Palestinians, and Arabs living in Israel. And the really bad thing about it is we (US taxpayers) fund Israel with 3 Billion dollars per year plus military aid. The only nuclear, weapons of mass destruction country in the Middle East (NOT IRAN).

    • Jason

      Sad but you are right. We have been funding terrorist since 1948. Kennedy, 911, the next dirty bomb all supplied by our trusted friend in the Middle East, Israel. God help us.

      • Jamie

        So now the Saudis aboard the 9/11 planes were from Israel, and we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan instead of Israel? I can’t keep up with you.

    • Jamie

      What about Pakistan and India? They may not be officially Middle East, but they’re close enough for me to include them in your nuclear armed countries calculus.

  • Gordon near Two Harbors

    We knew it was coming; he was 95 years old. But another way of looking at it is that he only lived 68 years outside of prison. Mandela was one of those exceedingly rare human beings to achieve true greatness–the type that will be remembered for centuries.

    When he emerged from prison, willing to forgive and negotiate with his captors, he set a standard for South Africa that almost certainly avoided what would have been the bloodiest civil war of the 20th century. The world noticed and will never forget.

  • Mr. J

    Too many politicians, not enough leaders. Nelson Mandela’s passing made me wish we had more leaders like him, who put their personal ambitions and feelings aside to focus on what is best for their country or community. May he rest in peace!

  • JQP

    that there is one less world leader working on improving the ‘human” condition. the rest of us better step it up a little.
    I’m a notorious slacker … but even I’ll try to do better.

  • Gary F

    We didn’t send anyone to the funeral of Margaret Thatcher, not even the Vice Prez, but it’s big deal for the Mandela funeral. I guess we know where our President’s priorities are.

    • stpldavis

      Gary, if you wish to abolish the race card, you need to start with yourself. Ironically, that’s exactly what Mandela stood for, which is why he DIDN’T hate the Caucasian who imprisoned him, and WHY HE DID work with the Caucasian minority to restore peace and prosperity to South Africa. Margaret Thatcher STOOD FOR ENGLAND, not peace, not the end of racism, or the best for those who had so few. She was recognized AS THE SYMBOL OF THE BRITISH MONARCHY, not the symbol of WORLD PEACE, and rest assured, OTHER NATIONAL LEADERS OUTSIDE OF AFRICA, are doing exactly what President Obama is doing, paying his respects to Nelson Mandela. If you’re SO DESPERATE for a Caucasian person to receive similar GLOBAL notoriety, START WITH YOURSELF, and promote PEACE AND PROSPERITY for the world’s poor, for the world’s minorities, and for the world itself.

      • Gary F

        She stood against communism. That’s good, right?

    • Ralphy

      It was not considered a state
      funeral, and the British leadership did not feel they had been snubbed. The
      UK’s current Prime Minister, David Cameron, when asked whether the Prime Minister was disappointed with
      the American delegation coming to Lady Thatcher’s funeral, or whether it was a
      snub that no former presidents would attend, the PMS [Prime Minister’s
      Spokesperson] said absolutely not and that the seniority of the America
      dignitaries attending was reflective of her global stature. He welcomed the
      fact that two former Secretaries of State with whom Lady Thatcher had worked
      very closely with were attending, saying it was testimony to the esteem in
      which she was held.

    • John O.

      Never mind that Bush 43 and Mrs. Bush also attended, along with the Clintons and Carter. Bush 41 was the only living former US president not in attendance.

  • stpldavis

    Nelson Mandela is the latest, but hopefully not the last, of the great people in WORLD HISTORY that wanted peace, change, and everyone, even those who we THINK are on government assistance, to prosper. There are very few such people in world history: Jesus Christ, Florence Nightingale, Ghandi, and Martin Luther King Jr. It would be wonderful if the world would take these individuals’ leads and work diligently hard to help all who suffer. Unfortunately, poverty in America and the world is on the rise, natural resources are in the hands of the few, and people STILL SEEK reasons to put somebody else down, like Gary F down below. The world NEEDS MORE MANDELAS, but its up to us to stop waiting for that person to come along, and just do what’s right by all human beings. After all, regardless of race, nation, or gender, we all want a bright future, where we don’t go hungry, where we can experience some of the joys life has to offer, and to ensure our children have a future that is as positive as our hopes are.

    • Gary F

      Think he ever had anyone “Necklaced”?

      • Ralphy

        No I dont. Do you?
        Considering he was in solitary confinement for the entire history of necklacing in SA, and that the leadership of the ANC spoke out repeatedly against the act, I have no doubts that Nelson Mandela’s hands are clean.