Reactions to Nelson Mandela's Death

Dec 5, 2013

Credit South Africa The Good News / Creative Commons

President Barack Obama reflected in a statement Thursday evening on the passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela. "We will not see the likes of Nelson Mandela again," he said. "It falls to us to carry forward the example that he set."

Obama also called Mandela "a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice."

Earlier this year, Obama visited Mandela's former jail cell on South Africa's Robben Island. "On behalf of our family, we're deeply humbled to stand where men of such courage faced down injustice, and refused to yield," Obama said at the time. "The world is grateful for the heroes of Robben Island, who remind us that no shackles or cells can match the strength of the human spirit."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Nelson Mandela was "a giant for justice" whose "selfless struggle for human dignity, equality and freedom" inspired many people around the world. "No one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations," he told reporters soon after Mandela's death was announced Thursday. "Nelson Mandela showed what is possible for our world, and within each one of us, if we believe a dream and work together for justice and humanity," Ban said. "Let us continue each day to be inspired by Nelson Mandela's lifelong example to keep working for a better and more just world." The U.N. Security Council interrupted a meeting on the tribunals for former Yugoslavia and Rwanda and stood for a minute in silent tribute to Mandela.

NPR's Africa correspondent, Ofeibea Quist-Arcton gave an emotional response to news of Mandela's death on All Things Considered. 

"Nelson Mandela spoke the same way to everyone - with love, with amusement and with humility." - Ofeibea Quist-Arcton

She described him as "a man who was in stature, tall, dignified, with his gray and white hair, his beautiful smile, his sense of humor, a man who had time for everyone. From a road sweeper to a king - Nelson Mandela spoke the same way to everyone - with love, with amusement and with humility and I think that's what many Africans across the continent are going to remember him for."

In a statement, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said, "While the news of his passing is cause for sorrow, we should be forever grateful for his incomparable contribution to the cause for equality."


The New York Times published a lengthy obituary for Mandela.

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty to the liberation underground to a prison rock quarry to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. And then, when his first term of office was up, unlike so many of the successful revolutionaries he regarded as kindred spirits, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.

New Yorker cover for the December 16, 2013 edition.
Credit NewYorker.com

The New Yorker released the upcoming cover remembering Mandela too. Artist Kadir Nelson talked about his work. "I’ve recently made a children’s book about Nelson Mandela, but for a New Yorker cover, I settled on a younger image of him during the time that he was on trial with over a hundred of his comrades," Nelson told The New Yorker.

In the magazine's obituary, William Finnegan wrote about the end of Mandela's life and a gathering that he had in 2004 when he was nearly 86 years old.

He told a gathering at his home in Johannesburg that he was “retiring from retirement.” He wanted to read more books, live quietly in a house he had built in his ancestral village, and enjoy his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and doting wife. “Thanks for being kind to an old man,” he told his guests, “allowing him to take a rest even if many of you may feel that after loafing somewhere on an island and other places for twenty-seven years, the rest is not really deserved.” He promised to stay in touch. “Don’t call me. I will call you.”

This report contains information from The Associated Press.