Philadelphia, December 5, 2013– Mayor Michael A. Nutter delivered the following statement on the passing of former South African President and longtime civil rights leader Nelson Mandela. President Mandela was 95 years old. Along with F.W. de Klerk, the former South African President, he was awarded the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia in 1993.
Mayor Nutter has ordered City flags to be flown at half-mast tomorrow. The statement is as follows:
“Nelson Mandela was an incredible man. His was a life well lived and well spent—he freed a nation but also freed so many others all around the world with his actions. He was an incredible champion, leader and father of a movement that preached non-violence and forgiveness.
“I had the honor of meeting President Mandela in Philadelphia in the 1990s, and he is one of the most remarkable and influential people I have ever met. I traveled to South Africa in 2005 and visited Robben Island, where President Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. I saw his cell. I watched his long walk to freedom on live television when he was released from prison by the apartheid regime. His idea for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was possibly one of the best ideas of any human. It was the epitome of his philosophy.
“President Mandela never spoke vengeance even after his 27 years in prison with hard labor—an imprisonment that was the result of his straight forward demand that all South Africans could vote, be free and participate in the vitality of their own country.
“We have only seen a few individuals like President Mandela in history, others being Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and in our region, the Rev. Leon Sullivan, who developed his principles to fight apartheid using financial means, and Rev. Bill Gray III, our Congressman, who knew President Mandela and created a multiracial coalition for civil rights. This is a sad day in the world, but all of us have benefitted from his strength, courage, commitment to human condition. He had an unbending belief in freedom, democracy and the potential of every person regardless of race, nationality and gender.
The world has lost a great hero. Let us honor him by seeking to be as good as he was. And let us live by these words that he has left us for all eternity, ‘For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’”