President Obama, scores of other world leaders, and almost 100,000 other supporters were on hand on Dec. 10 in Johannesburg, South Africa to remember the amazing life of Nelson Mandela.
In his 95 years on earth, Nelson Mandela led an extraordinary, inspiring life, so it’s only appropriate that on Dec. 10, countless world leaders — including President Barack Obama — traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa to honor Mandela during a massive, touching memorial service in the pouring rain.
Nelson Mandela Honored At Huge Memorial Service
The service was held FNB Stadium, and the arena’s 94,000 seats were filled with mourners — and their umbrellas. It was estimated before the ceremony that more than 125,000 people would be in attendance to remember Mandela. Despite heavy rain, people were in a celebratory mood inside the stadium, cheering for Mandela’s life and blowing “vuvuzela” plastic horns.
Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of the ruling African National Congress party who opened the memorial proceedings, said, “In our tradition, when it rains when you are buried, your gods are welcoming you to heaven.”
59 heads of state from around the world were on hand, including President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama. Former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura Bush, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Former President Bill Clinton, Former President Jimmy Carter, Bono, and Charlize Theron also attended the memorial service.
President Obama gave a touching speech about the legendary leader, calling him “a giant of history who moved the nation toward justice and, in the process, moved billions around the world.” He also referred to Mandela as “the last great liberator of the 20th century.” He concluded with, “While I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man. Let us search for his strength, let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves. ‘We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world – you can make his life’s work your own.’
Other speakers include the presidents of Namibia, India and Brazil, as well as Mandela’s grandchildren.
FNB Stadium has personal significance for Mandela. It was the last place he made a public appearance in 2010. He was there for the closing ceremony of the World Cup, during which he rode around on a cart and greeted all of the fans, further symbolizing hope and joy for all of South Africa.
President Obama Remembers Nelson Mandela
When Mandela passed away from a lung infection on Dec. 5, President Obama released an extremely heartfelt statement about the fallen world leader. Calling Mandela, “one for the ages,” Obama also praised the anti-apartheid revolutionary for his fierce personality and his incredible determination to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others.
“For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived — a man who took history in his hands, and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice,” Obama ended his statement. We couldn’t have put it any better, and it was incredible to see the overwhelming outpouring of love, emotion, and support from all who attended the memorial service on Dec. 10.
— Andrew Gruttadaro