Tributes to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95, poured in from a wide range of American leaders — from former presidents to legislators to mayors.
Here are some of the comments.
Former President George W. Bush:
"Laura and I join the people of South Africa and the world in celebrating the life of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time.
"He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example.
"This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on forever."
Former President Bill Clinton:
"Today, the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. Hillary, Chelsea, and I have lost a true friend.
"History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life.
"All of us are living in a better world because of the life that 'Madiba' lived. He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life's real victories must be shared."
Former President George H.W. Bush:
"Barbara and I mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know.
"As president, I watched in wonder as Nelson Mandela had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment — setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all.
"He was a man of tremendous moral courage, who changed the course of history in his country."
Former President Jimmy Carter:
"The people of South Africa and human-rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world's leading democracies."
"In recent years, I was gratified to be able to work with him to encourage resolution of conflicts and advance social justice and human rights in many nations. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family at this difficult time."
Former Vice President Al Gore:
"President Mandela has already been immortalized as an enduring symbol of compassion and courage. I had the honor of working with 'Madiba' often during my time as co-chairman of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission. Each and every time I was with him, I was awed by his commanding yet graceful presence."
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
"Throughout history, a few special people have been able to transcend differences and change the world for the better. Nelson Mandela was one of those people who had a vision for human rights and equality. Those beliefs made him the father of multiethnic democracy in South Africa.
"All freedom-loving people will miss him, but we will never forget his sacrifice and his achievements."
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio:
"Nelson Mandela was an unrelenting voice for democracy and his 'long walk to freedom' showed an enduring faith in God and respect for human dignity. His perseverance in fighting the apartheid system will continue to inspire future generations.
"Mandela led his countrymen through times of epic change with a quiet moral authority that directed his own path from prisoner to president. He passes this world as a champion of peace and racial harmony."
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia:
"The world has lost an exceptional leader who made the world a better place by illuminating in his own nation the shining light of freedom. From prisoner to president, Mandela demonstrated a lifelong commitment to justice and human rights, and his legacy should serve as an example for all of us."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California:
"May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope. May his story long remind us to always look forward with optimism to the future."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky:
"Elaine and I are deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, a man whose skillful guidance of South Africa following the end of the apartheid regime made him one of the great statesmen of our time and a global symbol of reconciliation.
"Madiba's patience through imprisonment and insistence on unity over vengeance in the delicate period in which he served stand as a permanent reminder to the world of the value of perseverance and the positive influence one good man or woman can have over the course of human affairs.
"The world mourns this great leader. May his passing lead to a deeper commitment to reconciliation around the world."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Republican Conference:
"Nelson Mandela was a man of courage, honor, and conviction — and the world is a better place because of him. His legacy will continue to inspire generations to work toward greater freedom and justice throughout the world."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.:
"In a way, Mandela was both the 'George Washington' and 'Abraham Lincoln' of his country. We're so fortunate to have lived in his time."
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah:
"From combating the immoral apartheid regime to his time presiding over the country's peaceful transition to democracy as president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela’s dignity, courage and conviction made him a lion among men.
Who but Nelson Mandela could have healed such a wounded and divided nation through peaceful means – not violent retribution – and bring South Africa into the modern age where discrimination by race is not tolerated? The loss of such a great man will be felt and borne by us all."
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.:
“The world has lost one of history’s most important figures, though Nelson Mandela’s example will live on for generations to come. Men and women striving for justice and fairness around the world have drawn inspiration from Nelson Mandela, and he showed South Africans and the entire world what the power of forgiveness truly means and can accomplish."
Rep. Ed Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:
"His vision and lack of vindictiveness was amazing, and brought South Africans through a very difficult transition, which could have gone in a very different, violent direction. Most impressively, he elected to serve a single presidential term, turning over power he assuredly could have kept."
Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee:
"The world has lost a courageous man who was an anti-apartheid leader, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work, and who led South Africa through a trying time of reform.
"Not easily deterred and full of hope for the future of his country, he once said: 'I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.'
"I hope future generations will be encouraged by President Mandela’s tenacity to bring peace to his nation and raise awareness on issues affecting his fellow South Africans."
Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"As an inspirational leader, Nelson Mandela brought about a better way of life for his people of South Africa and inspired millions throughout the world. While we are all saddened by his passing, his personal story and contributions to freedom, democracy, and human rights will live on forever."
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"Few individuals in human history can truly claim a legacy of peace and perseverance like Mandela can. We, as a global community, are fortunate to have benefited from Mandela’s greatness and will forever be awed by his brave journey."
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah:
"Few people in the history of the world have had a greater impact than President Mandela. May God bless him and his family."
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.:
"Nelson Mandela's compassion and humility in the face of overwhelming adversity remains an inspiration. The people of South Africa will forever be in debt for his role in ending apartheid, and the rest of the world inspired by his leading a divided nation into a new, prosperous era."
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg:
Roslyn Brock, board chairwoman, NAACP:
"Nelson Mandela was a global icon who broke the back of apartheid in South Africa and inspired generations of people around the world with his spirit of resolve and reconciliation. He devoted his life to building a more just, equal, and compassionate world, and we are all better for it."
"Nelson Mandela embodied the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and values of all who seek justice against tremendous odds. He responded to unfathomable violence with peace and courage, and in doing so he forever changed the world."
Cardinal Timothy Dolan:
"Nelson Mandela was a hero to the world. His bravery in defending human rights against the great evil of apartheid made him a symbol of courage and dignity, as well as an inspiration to people everywhere.
"As Blessed Pope John Paul II noted during his visit to South Africa in 1995, Nelson Mandela was for many years, 'a silent and suffering "witness" of your people's yearning for true liberation,' who, as President of South Africa, had to then 'shoulder the burden of inspiring and challenging everyone to succeed in the task of national reconciliation and reconstruction.'
"In succeeding in these crucial and difficult tasks, Nelson Mandela truly made the world a better place."
Abraham Foxman, national director, Anti-Defamation League:
"Nelson Mandela will be long remembered as one of the greatest figures of his generation and one of the most inspirational and effective freedom-fighting figures in modern history.
"In a world where the word 'hero' is too readily bandied about, Nelson Mandela was a true hero of freedom who brought historic change, and did so peacefully.
"While Mandela had suffered tremendously under the apartheid regime, remarkably, he did not dwell on retribution, but rather on reconciliation and healing. … During the years of his trials and tribulations, the Jewish community of South Africa supported him — and when he sought freedom, Mandela returned the friendship and appreciation."
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