Panafrican News Agency

Obama salutes Mandela in stirring speech

Johannesburg, South Africa (PANA) – Former United States President Barack Obama, on Tuesday saluted global icon Nelson Mandela in a stirring address to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

Mandela, who died in 2013, was born on 18 July, 1918.

Addressing a crowd of about 9,000 people at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg, Obama addressed the profound influence that Mandela had on him as a young African American.

“Madiba's light shone so brightly, even from that narrow Robben Island cell, that in the late 70s he could inspire a young college student on the other side of the world, to re-examine his own priorities,” Obama said, using Mandela’s clan name.

"He fought the fight to end apartheid. Through his sacrifice and unwavering leadership and most of all through his moral example, Mandela and the movement he led would come to embody universal aspirations."

The Nobel Laureate reflected on the political turmoil in the United States and around the world, Obama said, adding “On Madiba's 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads. A moment in time at which two very different visions of humanity's future compete, for the hearts and the minds of citizens around the world. Two different stories, two different narratives, about who we are, and who we should be.”

On a lighter note, he addressed the inclusivity and racial mix of the French football team that won the FIFA World Cup, saying “not all of those folks look like Gauls to me... but they're French”.

Earlier, leading businessman Patrice Motsepe said many South Africans never believed they could live to see Mandela take his oath of office to become the first black head of state. And he added that it was particularly significant when Obama become the first black president of the United States.

“The presence of each and every one of you is proof that the spirit and legacy of Mandela is still alive,” he said.

The annual lecture is one of the Nelson Mandela Foundation’s flagship programmes to honour Mandela. Every year since 2003, global leaders have used the lecture to raise topical issues affecting South Africa, Africa and the rest of the world.
-0- PANA CU/VAO 17July2018