Obama pays tribute to Madiba

2013-12-10 14:25
US President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the memorial service for late president Nelson Mandela at Soccer City Stadium. (Alexander Joe, AFP)

US President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the memorial service for late president Nelson Mandela at Soccer City Stadium. (Alexander Joe, AFP)

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Johannesburg - Former president Nelson Mandela used his years in prison to fight for the people of South Africa, US president Barack Obama said on Tuesday.

"Mandela taught us the power of action and the power of ideals, the importance of reasons and arguments. He understood the ideals could not be contained within prison walls," said Obama, to loud cheers from the crowd.

"He used decades of prison to sharpen his argument...he learnt the language and customs of his oppressors."

Mandela changed laws and hearts, he said.

Obama said Madiba channeled his desire to fight through platforms and organisation, so that people could stand up with moral dignity and fight.

This carried a price, he said.

He said Mandela had an ideal for which he was prepared to die.

Mandela was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal, and he understood the ties that bind the human spirit.

"Ubuntu, a word that captures Mandela's greatest gift." he said.

Enraptures crowd

Obama said the world thanked South Africa for sharing Mandela.

"It is an honour to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other," he said.

"People of every walk of life, the world thanks you for sharing Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph."

Mandela was the last great liberator of the 20th century.

He was committed to democracy and rule of law, and received the adoration he deserved, said Obama.

Madiba could admit to imperfection and showed humility.

"We loved him so....He was a man of flesh and blood, a son and a husband...that's why we learnt so much from him."

He earned his place in history through the struggle, said Obama.

The crowd listened tentatively to US president Barack Obama's tribute to former president Nelson Mandela at FNB Stadium.

Obama, wearing a dark suit with a blue tie, quoted from Mandela's Rivonia Treason Trial speech.

When he said, "this is an ideal for which I am prepared to die", the crowd erupted with cheers and applause.

"Amandla Nelson Mandela," said Obama.

Most people stood, huddled under colourful umbrellas, to get a better look at the US head of state as he gave a passionate speech about Mandela.

The crowd cheered in appreciation of what he was saying.

FNB Stadium was the site of Mandela's first speech inland shortly after his release from prison in 1990.

Mandela died at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday, at the age of 95. He will be buried in Qunu, in the Eastern Cape, on Sunday.

Friends, colleagues, comrades and family of Nelson Mandela are invited to share their memories and tributes, and to light a candle for him, on his profile at Remembered.co.za.

Read more on:    nelson mandela  |  barack obama

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