Saturday, April 19, 2014 · 8:51 p.m.

Roundup: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela in London April 6, 2000. (Photo: LSE Library, Flickr)

Nelson Mandela, the celebrated activist and former president of South Africa, died Thursday. Here is a sample of what Chattanooga-area residents posted on social media.

An overview of his life from a New York Times’ obituary:

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty to the liberation underground to a prison rock quarry to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. And then, when his first term of office was up, unlike so many of the successful revolutionaries he regarded as kindred spirits, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.

The Wall Street Journal posted an interactive obituary of quotes and images.

He gave his first TV interview when he was 42 years old. He would be sentenced to life in prison three years later.

Release after prison
He was released from prison Feb. 11, 1990. Apartheid still existed in South Africa, but the country’s president, F.W. de Klerk, was making sweeping changes to dismantle the system. Anticipation for Mandela’s release coursed through the country, according to a reporter who covered it.

South Africans, black and white, knew their country was about to undergo seismic change, yet no one knew where it would lead.

The black majority saw Mandela as their deliverance from more than three centuries of white domination. Many whites feared his release could unleash an explosive civil war along racial lines.

As the nation projected its hopes and fears onto Mandela, the reality was that only a tiny circle of people had seen or heard him for the past quarter century.

His time in prison was a crucible, writes Desmond Tutu, activist and retired bishop.

When he came out of prison, many people feared he would turn out to have feet of clay. The idea that he might live up to his reputation seemed too good to be true. A whisper went around that some in the ANC said he was a lot more useful in jail than outside.

When he did come out, the most extraordinary thing happened. Even though many in the white community in South Africa were still dismissing him as a terrorist, he tried to understand their position. His gestures communicated more eloquently than words. For example, he invited his white jailer as a VIP guest to his inauguration as president, and he invited the prosecutor in the Rivonia trial to lunch.

What incredible acts of magnanimity these were.

"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," President Barack Obama said Thursday. "Today, he has gone home. And 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. He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages."

"As an inspirational leader, Nelson Mandela brought about a better way of life for his people of South Africa and inspired millions throughout the world," Bob Corker, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a prepared statement. "While we are all saddened by his passing, his personal story and contributions to freedom, democracy and human rights will live on forever."

He helped redefine Africa’s image, Bono writes.

Mandela would be remembered as a remarkable man just for what happened—and didn’t happen—in South Africa’s transition. But more than anyone, it was he who rebooted the idea of Africa from a continent in chaos to a much more romantic view, one in keeping with the majesty of the landscape and the nobility of even its poorer inhabitants. He was also a hardheaded realist, as his economic policy demonstrated. To him, principles and pragmatism were not foes; they went hand in hand. He was an idealist without naiveté, a compromiser without being compromised.

His actions were great, but so too were his words. Buzzfeed compiled 15 inspiring quotes.

And here's a fitting headline from The Onion.

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