Nelson Mandela spent nearly seven decades fighting for freedom and equality in South Africa as he stood up against the institutionalized racist white-led apartheid rule. He started with peaceful resistance in the 1950s, but eventually joined the armed struggle, his participation in which landed him in prison on the infamous Robben Island. He spent 27 years there before being released and seeing his dream of a black-ruled South Africa come true, rising to power as the majority-black nation’s first black president.
He inspired and challenged the world to stand up for others. As word of Mandela’s death spread, current and former presidents, athletes and entertainers, and people around the world spoke about the life and legacy of the former South African leader.
His life was not without controversy. But, he managed to make the transition from revolutionary to statesman, living up to the world’s expectations.
He was a master politician as well as humanitarian and remains a model for global leaders.
Mandela died Thursday at the age of 95.
“Nelson Mandela was a great man who stood up for his principles and human rights,” said Kansas Governor Sam Brownback. “He was an inspiration to many, including myself. My thoughts and prayers go to his family.”
“We have lost one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth,” President Obama said.
At at time when he could have easily forced a reverse apartheid system, he strove to unite his homeland, bringing blacks and whites together.
As our state Legislature and federal government continue to be bogged down by partisan and intra-party bickering, we can only hope our elected officials can learn from Mandela’s legacy.