“To the people of South Africa — people of every race and every walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us,” President Obama said. “His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and hope found expression in his life, and your freedom, your democracy, is his cherished legacy.”
As the rain poured, “Even heaven is crying,” one woman in the crowd declared as the deluge continued. “We have lost an angel.”
For those tens of thousands who entered the stadium, the memorial service, part of a 10-day period of national mourning since Mr. Mandela died last Thursday, was a moment that fused revolutionary memories of the fight against apartheid with appeals for the values of forgiveness and reconciliation. Songs of the struggle, as the anti-apartheid campaign is known, blended with hymns and prayer.
Using Mr. Mandela’s clan name, Mr. Obama declared: “It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well; to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion, generosity and truth. He changed laws, but also hearts.”
Striking a deeply personal note, he went on: “Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land. It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities — to others, and to myself — and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside us.”
Obama and Castro shook hands as they were there with more than 60 heads of state with thousands of South Africans at the 90,000 seat FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
U.S. President Barack Obama shook hands with Cuba’s Raul Castro at a memorial for Nelson Mandela on Tuesday, a rare gesture between the leaders of two ideological opponents that reflected the anti-apartheid hero’s spirit of reconciliation.