Political world reacts to Nelson Mandela death
December 5th, 2013
05:17 PM ET
1 year ago

Political world reacts to Nelson Mandela death

(CNN) – U.S. lawmakers and former presidents from both sides of the aisle took time Thursday to mark the death of Nelson Mandela, the prisoner-turned-president who reconciled South Africa after the end of apartheid, is dead.

Mandela was age 95.

President Barack Obama:

"Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real. He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today, he has gone home. And we have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us - he belongs to the ages."

Read his full remarks

Vice President Joe Biden:

"Mandela’s wisdom and compassion were formidable enough to change the world. First his courage and then his forgiveness inspired us all, and challenged us to do better. In the words of the South African poet Peter Horn, he "dreamed the world another way." ...In the hands of Nelson Mandela, hope and history rhymed. This is a better world because Nelson Mandela was in it. He was a good man."

First Lady Michelle Obama:

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

Secretary of State John Kerry:

"Nelson Mandela was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation and knew the future demands we move beyond the past. He gave everything he had to heal his country and lead it back into the community of nations, including insisting on relinquishing his office and ensuring there would be a peaceful transfer of power. Today, people all around the world who yearn for democracy look to Mandela’s nation and its democratic Constitution as a hopeful example of what is possible."

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. Laura and I send our heartfelt sympathy to President Mandela’s family and to the citizens of the nation he loved.”

Former President Bill Clinton:

"Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. And Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend.”

“His story 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. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Graça and his family and to the people of South Africa. 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 Jimmy Carter:

"Rosalynn and I are deeply saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela. 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 through The Elders 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 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. Barbara and I had great respect for President Mandela, and send our condolences to his family and countrymen."

Former Vice President Al Gore:

"We should take a moment today to bow our heads and pay our respects to an extraordinarily courageous man who truly changed the world for the better and, in the process, inspired us all."

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 multi ethnic democracy in South Africa. All freedom loving people will miss him but we will never forget his sacrifice and his achievements. My prayers and my thoughts are with him and with the people of South Africa."

Former Secretary of State and retired Gen. Colin Powell:

"After 27 years in prison he was asked upon release if he was bitter, if he wanted to get even with his jailers or oppressors. His simple, but profound answer, was, “If I felt that way I would still be in jail.” His jailers sat in the front row at his inauguration. I will never forget him, nor will the world. My wife and I offer out deepest condolences to his family and the people of South Africa. His spirit lives on."

National Security Advisor Susan Rice:

"Even as we mourn, we remember how privileged the world was to witness the transformation he wrought by changing minds and hearts. He was apartheid’s captive but never its prisoner, and he rid the world of one of history’s foulest evils by hewing to universal principles for which he hoped to live but was prepared to die. Let us celebrate Madiba’s life by rededicating ourselves to the values and hopes he embodied: reconciliation and justice, freedom and equality, democracy and human rights, an honest reckoning with the past and an unflinching insistence on embracing our common humanity."

British Prime Minister David Cameron:

“Mandela was not just a hero of our time but of all times… a man that through his dignity has inspired millions."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell:

“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.”

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid:

House Speaker John Boehner:

“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. I send condolences to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Peolosi:

2008 Republican presidential nominee and Sen. John McCain of Arizona:

“It is hard not to be in awe of Nelson Mandela. His character is awe-inspiring – his courage, resilience, generosity, selflessness, wisdom. History offers few examples of people who were as devoted or sacrificed more for a cause greater than their self-interest than Nelson Mandela...To forgive when you have been wronged, when you have suffered unjustly at the hands of others, is a hard thing to do. But it is, as Nelson Mandela knew, the most liberating action a person can take. For nations, too, if they are to build a future greater than their history."

Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas:

Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina:

“Nelson Mandela was a transformational figure, a man who truly changed the world. He walked a long road to freedom and embraced the fundamental human belief in equality. After his release from prison, his tireless work to reconcile a nation torn apart by centuries of tension and hostility made him one of history’s greatest statesmen. All freedom-loving people mourn his passing.”

Democratic Rep. Jared Polis of Colorado:

Democratic Rep. Barbara Lee of California:

"I am deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family, and the people of South Africa. His legacy will live on forever in how we live our lives and fight for freedom and justice in a multi-racial society. We must pause and remember Madiba in his greatness; he used his life not for himself, but for the good of his country and the good of the world, and his spirit will live on."

Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin:

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona:

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York:

“The world lost a selfless leader who spent his life fighting for justice. Madiba’s powerful legacy and shining example of courage and love will continue to inspire countless generations.”

Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey:

Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas:

“May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope. May it be a comfort to his family, to his friends and loved ones, to the people of South Africa that so many mourn the loss of this extraordinary man and incredible leader at this sad time.”

Republican Rep. Scott Rigell of Virginia:

Democratic Rep. Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii:


Democratic Rep. Joe Crowley of New York:

Democratic Rep. Gwen Moore of Wisconsin:

Democratic Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota:

2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, via Facebook:

"In the modern age, Nelson Mandela will be remembered as an unsurpassed healer of human hearts. By dint of his character, sacrifice, vision and abounding love, he won a revolution without shedding blood, founded a peaceful nation in a land of turmoil, and personified principle in a world searching for integrity."

Former United States Ambassador to United Nations Andrew Young to CNN's Wolf Blitzer:

"His spiritual presence was far more important than his physical suffering. It seemed as though the more he suffered, the stronger he became spiritually...The one thing that impressed me always about South Africa was that he was not the only one had this spirit. There was a spirit of reconciliation that was a part of the body politic of southern Africa and I think we can build on that in the world."

Democratic San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, via Facebook:

"Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela. You were a once-in-a-century leader whose teachings about tolerance and acceptance inspired our common humanity."

New York City Mayor-Elect Bill de Blasio:

"We live in a far better world today because of the life and work of Nelson Mandela. He met hatred with reason, intolerance with resolve... Just months after being released from 27 years of political imprisonment, Nelson Mandela came here to New York City. I will never forget hearing his words at Yankee Stadium, where he told New Yorkers, 'You the people, never abandoned us.' We came to believe in his fight for justice and democracy as if it were our own. Our values and activism helped us work toward justice in South Africa, and thereafter in many other parts of the world."

Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio:

"With incomparable courage, President Mandela overcame violent persecution for his belief that every individual deserved to live in a society where injustice would not be tolerated...His vision for justice in South Africa reflected the vision Members of CBC had for America, and his story empowered African Americans and people of all races to stand up for justice on behalf our brothers and sisters worldwide."

Attorney General Eric Holder:

"Like so many – in every corner of the globe – I have regarded President Mandela as a personal hero for decades. I was inspired years ago by his courage and his devotion to improving the lives of those around him. And when I had the privilege of meeting with him, as Deputy Attorney General, I found him to be a remarkable man and a brilliant and principled leader. His legacy will endure, and his important work will go on, in the efforts of all who continue to speak out for peace, for freedom, for justice, and for the dignity to which every human being is entitled. I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing today, and will hold his friends, loved ones, and countrymen and -women in my thoughts and prayers.”

Former House Speaker, 2012 Republican presidential candidate and host of CNN's Crossfire Newt Gingrich:

"Nelson Mandela was truly the father of an integrated, democratic South Africa. He will be an inspiration for generations to come and an historic leader worth studying for as long as people want to learn about greatness in serving others."


Filed under: Congress • Nelson Mandela • South Africa
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. rs

    Great words and sentiments from those in the article above.

    December 5, 2013 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  2. Stuffit

    Why did Obozo have to make his tribute to Mandela all about him? Glad he could take time out from demeaning and degrading Republicans and TEA party members to make a few comments about how Mandela tight him how to work with the opposition to get things done. What a hypocrite.

    December 5, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  3. Namelinda

    It is such a sad day in the history of the world to have lost a great leader. He endured so much injustice in life but God rose him above it. My deepest sympathy to his family.

    December 5, 2013 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Prince Smitho Vega

    Grandpa Mandela you were an inspiration to me and to Africa at large, The future generation of Africa will forever remember you.

    December 5, 2013 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  5. Folorunso Adedeji

    R. I. P Mandela, your memories of good deeds and moments will forever be in heart. Thank you our HERO in Africa, our HERO of the world

    December 5, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  6. Babyboomer

    I'm saddened to hear about the passing of President Nelson Mandela. May his legacy live on forever. Please and Blessing to his family members and friends and to all of South Africa.

    December 5, 2013 08:23 pm at 8:23 pm |
  7. NC

    Rest in peace my brother.

    December 5, 2013 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  8. Juda

    I and millions of my compatriots down here in South Africa, deeply saddened by the death of President Mandela. We appreciate his leadership. We also acknowledge and appreciate the Americans' leadership in its diversity to joining us as we mourn his death!

    December 5, 2013 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  9. Name Uche Agonsi

    In case you missed it, Madiba fought for Democracy, Love,Peace, Human Dignity, Racism and Hate....all regular teachings of the Christian Faith, but which the political world has love to hate practically.

    December 5, 2013 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  10. S~

    Mandela seemed like a good person, but was he a member of a communist party?

    December 6, 2013 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  11. Mark

    We will miss him dearly. Rest in Peace.

    December 6, 2013 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  12. neyin dudun

    Madiba was a man of great words. Who saw more than the future. Remember when I met him and held his hands, I surely felt did greatness. Live beyond. Master madiba

    December 6, 2013 01:17 am at 1:17 am |
  13. Simon Alans

    China and Russia are the two worst countries that still hold up political prisoners.

    December 6, 2013 05:17 am at 5:17 am |