As news of Madiba’s death rocketed around the world Thursday evening, those who knew and admired the 95-year-old former president, ex-convict and freedom fighter responded.
U.S. President Barack Obama, who has named Mandela as a personal hero:
We’ve 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. Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journal from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better.
Member of Parliament Irwin Cotler, who served on Mandela’s legal team, recalled “a person who had no bitterness in him; no anger in him.”
Nelson Mandela was an inspiration not only for South Africa but, really, a global inspiration, and particularly for the young, who saw in him a hope for a better world, to use what might be a cliché. But Mandela embodied that hope.
Nelson Mandela was of the most honourable figures of our time. He was the father of his people, a man of vision, a freedom fighter who rejected violence. He set a personal example for his people in the long years he spent in prison.
That night, as I watched Mandela walk past me, I understood that his story, the long walk to freedom, was also Africa’s story. The indignation that once permeated our continent has been replaced by inspiration. The undercurrent of pessimism resulting from the onslaught of maladies — wars, coups, disease, poverty and oppression — has given way to a steadily increasing sense of possibility.
It wasn’t just Nelson Mandela who was transformed during those years of his imprisonment. We all were. And Africa is all the better because of that.
Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration. Many around the world were greatly influenced by his selfless struggle for human dignity equality and freedom. … No one did more in our time to advance the values and aspirations of the United Nations.
Nelson Mandela made history. That of South Africa and the whole world. Nelson Mandela’s message will not disappear. It will continue to inspire fighters for freedom, and to give confidence to peoples in the defence of just causes and universal rights.
There are few people who have done more to inspire the world than Nelson Mandela, and I am deeply saddened to learn of his death.
As a student of history and a huge believer in the power of the human spirit, I know his life will continue to serve as a beacon for change, throughout South Africa and around the world. He taught us that nothing is impossible, that we have a responsibility to one another, and that courage is the triumph over fear.
The world is better for his presence, and we all mourn his loss.
Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who worked with Mandela as a human rights lawyer in the 1990s:
Nelson Mandela was a towering icon, a giant of a man and an enormously inspiring individual who courageously spent his life fighting racism, oppression, and injustice. He used his days walking this earth to bring freedom, equality and human rights to his people, his country and to the world.
I will always cherish the opportunity I had to work alongside him in the 1990s as part of a team that was steering South Africa out of apartheid, rebuilding its legal system, and leading to its first all-race elections that resulted in Mandela becoming President. I will always remember him as a dignified and kind man with a sparkle in his eye, who used humor to diffuse tense situations.
It is a rare individual whose reputation for wisdom transcends time. Nelson Mandela, who died today at the age of 95, is one of them. New Democrats join others around the world in mourning the loss of this exceptional man.
Mr. Mandela devoted his life to fighting against injustice and defending, educating and caring for his people. An honourary Canadian citizen, he was a source of inspiration for all – from the most humble and impoverished to the world’s most powerful.
A precious light has done out in the world. Mila and I join with Graca Machel, his devoted family, and the millions who loved him in every corner of our world, in mourning this giant of our times. Let us remember though, that nothing can extinguish the flame of freedom he lit in South Africa. Nothing will dim the power of his message of tolerance, of integrity, and statesmanship.
The admiration and accolades Nelson Mandela is receiving from every corner of the world are a testament to his struggles and sacrifice. Truly a citizen of the world, Nelson Mandela’s contribution to world freedom is simply unparalleled, and he will forever occupy a place in the hearts, minds and imaginations of people across the globe.
Being an artist is kind of like being an actor. So as I painted Nelson’s portrait, I felt empowered and proud like the man himself. He has long been a personal hero of mine. I saw him speak shortly after he was released from prison, in 1990. It was both an honor and a privilege to paint his portrait and tell his story.
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, who spent much of Thursday charging through hordes of reporters trying to ask him questions:
You look at someone who spent 28 years in prison and has no animosity, that’s what you call a true man. So we’ll miss Nelson Mandela – every country, every city, he’s touched. And it just feels like yesterday we were wishing him a happy 95th birthday at city council.