|Africa, Barack Obama, Media Archive, Politics/Public Policy, South Africa, United States on 2013-12-06 16:36Z by Steven|
The New York Times
Michael D. Shear
That is the strong impression conveyed from Mr. Obama, whose political and personal bonds to Mr. Mandela, the former South African president, transcended their single face-to-face meeting, which took place at a hotel here in 2005.
It was the fight for racial justice in South Africa by Mr. Mandela that first inspired a young Barack Obama to public service, the American president recalled on Thursday evening after hearing that Mr. Mandela, the 95-year-old world icon, had died. Mr. Obama delivered his first public speech, in 1979, at an anti-apartheid rally.
Mr. Obama’s first moment on the public stage was the start of a life and political career imbued with the kind of hope that Mr. Mandela personified. “The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears,” Mr. Obama said on Thursday.
“Hope” would eventually become the mantra for his ascension to the White House.
On two continents separated by thousands of miles and vastly different political cultures, the lives of the two men rarely intersected. Weeks before their only meeting, Mr. Obama wrote Mr. Mandela a letter that Oprah Winfrey carried to South Africa. As Mr. Obama later emerged as a national political leader, he and Mr. Mandela occasionally traded phone calls or letters.
But the trajectories of the two leaders, who broke political and social barriers in their own countries, were destined to be connected, even if mostly from afar. Mr. Obama wrote about Mr. Mandela as a distant but inspirational figure in the forward to Mr. Mandela’s 2010 book, “Conversations With Myself.”
“His sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress,” Mr. Obama wrote. “In the most modest of ways, I was one of those people who tried to answer his call.”
Mr. Mandela and Mr. Obama served as the first black leaders of their nations and both were looked to by some as the vehicles for reconciliation between polarized electorates. Both won the Nobel Peace Prize, in part for their charisma and their ability to inspire and communicate…
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