President Obama joined dozens of world leaders and dignitaries to eulogize former South African president Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg’s FNB Stadium. Obama heralded Mandela ”as the last great liberator of the 20th century” and for his pivotal role in South Africa’s national history, comparing him to Martin Luther King, Jr., Abraham Lincoln, and the American Founding Fathers.
Obama thanked the people of South Africa “for sharing Nelson Mandela with us,” and described South Africa’s current political structure as Mandela’s ”cherished legacy.” Obama and first lady Michelle are the beneficiaries of the United States’s own struggle against racial inequality, he continued, and they see Mandela’s leadership in taking South Africa out of apartheid as the “dawn of a new day.”
But Obama also called on citizens and world leaders, including himself, to reflect on whether they were carrying out Mandela’s values. “But in America and in South Africa and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done,” Obama said.
“The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important,” he said, referring to issues such as racial, religious, and same-sex rights.