Nelson Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95, was one of history’s greatest humanitarian leaders. He was born into a world where he could be punished for speaking to a white person, and he died as one of the most respected people around the world. It’s hard to comprehend what Mandela meant to the world, but you can start to get a sense of it by watching the Great Madiba in action, and the reaction people had to him. Imprisoned for 27 years for rallying against apartheid (forced racial segregation in South Africa), Mandela was relentlessly gracious and compassionate, and that spirit carried him to the presidency of South Africa in 1994.
Here is Nelson Mandela speaking publicly for the first time after his release from prison. He only starts speaking at around the five minute mark, but it’s worth watching the incredible emotional of the release of the crowd when he steps onto the stage.
When Mandela was elected President of South Africa, the first black person to hold that title, he sounded a more sober note, aware of the challenges ahead of him. One of the most beautiful lines from his inaugural speech declares that every South African is integral to the country, a sentiment he fought and struggled to embed into the country:
“To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld.”
Lastly, here is Nelson Mandela’s famous speech at Harvard University. The year was 1998, and Mandela was in his last full year as President of South Africa. The speech shows Mandela’s understanding of his own place in history, of the challenges that we still face today (and which have not disappeared since then), and Mandela’s own charm. Mandela expresses a simple philosophy that guided him through a life of arguing for equality:
“The greatest single challenge facing our globalised world is to combat and eradicate its disparities. While in all parts of the world progress is being made in entrenching democratic forms of governance, we constantly need to remind ourselves that the freedoms which democracy brings will remain empty shells if they are not accompanied by real and tangible improvements in the material lives of the millions of ordinary citizens.”
Read More: This Is How You Should Honor Nelson Mandela