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After the Starless Midnight 

click to enlarge LIBRARY OF THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS AND POLITICAL SCIENCE
  • Library of the London School of Economics and Political Science

The world said goodbye to Nelson Mandela on Tuesday in South Africa. He described his tireless journey in his 1995 autobiography Long Walk to Freedom by saying, "I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended." Those words offer guidance to all who continue to be inspired by him.

Mandela's funeral happened to fall 20 years to the day after he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Here is a selection from his remarks that day:

It will not be presumptuous of us if we also add, among our predecessors, the name of another outstanding Nobel Peace Prize winner, the late African-American statesman and internationalist, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

He, too, grappled with and died in the effort to make a contribution to the just solution of the same great issues of the day which we have had to face as South Africans.

We speak here of the challenge of the dichotomies of war and peace, violence and non-violence, racism and human dignity, oppression and repression and liberty and human rights, poverty and freedom from want. ...

This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees.

The processes in which South Africa and Southern Africa as a whole are engaged, beckon and urge us all that we take this tide at the flood and make of this region a living example of what all people of conscience would like the world to be. ...

Let the strivings of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war.

Let the efforts of us all, prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold.

Let a new age dawn!

And here are some excerpts from President Barack Obama's eulogy at Mandela's funeral Tuesday:

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world — you can make his life's work your own. ...

He speaks to what is best inside us. After this great liberator is laid to rest; when we have returned to our cities and villages, and rejoined our daily routines, let us search then for his strength — for his largeness of spirit — somewhere inside ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, or our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach — think of Madiba, and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of a cell:

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.

What a great soul it was. We will miss him deeply. ♦

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