What Nelson Mandela, Icon of Human Rights, Did for the World

Nelson Mandela, icon for human rights activism, pioneer in the battle of apartheid and the first black president of South Africa, died at home today at the age of 95 after battling a long illness that kept him hospitalized over recent months, reports the BBC.

Mandela was the key figure in South Africa’s struggle to end the rule of the minority white population over the majority black citizens of the country. He was known for using non-violent tactics and protests while pushing toward a new land of equal rights regardless of race. In 1964 he was sentenced to life in prison for his work in desegregation. He served 27 years before being released.

Three years later, in 1993, Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He became the country’s first black president in 1994. “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come,” he said in his acceptance speech. He then stepped down in 1999 for his deputy, Thabo Mbeki.

After leaving office, he continued to do advocacy work, particularly around issues such as political oppression and HIV, before mostly retiring from public appearances in the mid 2000s.

“Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people,” Mandela said at a 1998 public event. To many figures across the globe, he was the embodiment of such a leader, and his loss is being deeply mourned.

“Our people have lost a father,” said current South African President Jacob Zuma, after telling his nation of Mandela’s passing. “Although we knew this day was going to come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world. His humility, passion and humanity earned him their love. Our nation has lost its greatest son.”

“Nelson Mandela lived for that ideal, and he made it real,” said President Barack Obama in a statement. ”He achieved more than could be expected of any man. Today he’s gone home. We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will ever share time with on this earth. He no longer belongs with us, he belongs with the ages.”

“May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope,” said Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D – CA). “May his story long remind us to always look forward with optimism to the future. 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.”

The value of his life and leadership may be a sole moment of bipartisan agreement on the Hill. “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,” Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R – OH) said in a statement. “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.”

World leaders offered similar praise. “A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a hero of our time,” said David Cameron, British Prime Minister, while former South African leaders referred to him as a “Father” of the country.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation expressed deepest sorrow to its beloved founder. “No words can adequately describe this enormous loss to our nation and to the world. We give thanks for his life, his leadership, his devotion to humanity and humanitarian causes. We salute our friend, colleague and comrade and thank him for his sacrifices for our freedom.”

To better understand Mandela in his own words, the following video is his first interview after nearly three decades in prison:

Please honor the memory of Nelson Mandela and his life’s work by pledging to do everything you can in your own life to advance equality and justice.

Related Stories:

“Do You Remember Me? It’s Me, Nelson!” – Memories of Nelson Mandela

Photo credit: Wikimedia commons


Jim Ven
Jim Vabout a year ago

thanks for the article.

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W3 years ago

well said, Suzanne

Brian Foster
Brian F3 years ago

Very sad. He will always be remembered for his courage, and forgiveness. After 27 years in prison, he found it in his heart to forgive his white oppressors. Sadly republican members of the United States government labeled him a terrorist, for his work with the ANC. This demonstrates how ignorant republicans are.

Leslie Gaiter
Leslie Gaiter3 years ago

The world has lost a legend, yet his legacy will live forever. A warrior for justice, a man of principal and a son to all mankind. May his soul Rest in Peace.

Karen Chestney
Karen Chestney3 years ago

Thank-you, Madiba for being.!

Mandy H.
Mandy H3 years ago

RIP, Nelson Mandela. It is important to point out that Nelson Mandela is so much more then just a human right's icon, he is an icon and hero to anyone who has ever been a minority or down trodden. I've spent most of my life being bullied and kicked around because I'm different to the majority. I've always seen Mandela as an important symbol of hope for anyone who has ever experienced any sort of repression, he might have only ever been righting for the rights of those with different skin colours but by fighting his good fight in an honorable way he lead the example for anyone who faces any sort of discrimination and cruelty. He was one of the greatest men to have ever lived.

john hall
john hall3 years ago

He was known for non violent tatics what the hell do you think he was convicted of ordering the death of people DUH. In my book anyone that talks crap about the USA while embracing back ass communist countries doesn't deserve the flag to be lowered and I'm not honoring him.

J C Bro
J C Brou3 years ago

He will always be a light for most of humankind, and a foil for the stupid bigots.

Vicky P.
Vicky P3 years ago


Doris G.
Past Member 3 years ago