December 6, 2013

World leaders, barrier-breakers react to Mandela’s death

International, national and state leaders express their admiration for Nelson Mandela


click image to enlarge

A man lights a candle for Nelson Mandela outside South African High Commission in London, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Mandela, South Africa's first black president, died Thursday in Johannesburg, South Africa after a long illness. He was 95.

AP Photo/Sang Tan

Related headlines

In nearly seven decades spent fighting for freedom and equality, Nelson Mandela inspired and challenged the world to stand up for others. As word of Mandela's death spread, current and former presidents, athletes and entertainers, and people around the world spoke out about the life and legacy of the former South African leader.


“We’ve lost our greatest son.”

Jacob Zuma

President of South Africa

“Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. ... He achieved more than could be expected of any man. ... We’ve 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.”

Barack Obama

President of the United States

“The people of South Africa and human rights advocates around the world have lost a great leader. His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world’s leading democracies.”

Jimmy Carter

Former U.S. president

“(He was) one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time.”

George W. Bush

Former U.S. president

“What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers, and championed human rights before the eyes of the world.”

Idris Elba

Actor in the title role of ‘Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom’

“He had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers . . . setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all.”

George H.W. Bush

First U.S. president to welcome Mandela to the White House

“We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life.”

Bill Clinton

Former U.S. president

“His words and deeds ... inspired millions ... to stand in abiding solidarity with one another. ... (He) embodied the finest and most noble qualities of the human spirit ...”

Angus King

U.S. senator from Maine

“Through his dignity, grace and the quality of his forgiveness, he made racism everywhere not just immoral but stupid; something not only to be disagreed with, but to be despised. In its place he put the inalienable right of all humankind to be free and to be equal.”

Tony Blair

Former British prime minister

“A heroic individual of consummate dignity and courage, he shone with a light that will forever cast its glow on the history of humankind.”

Olympia Snowe

Former U.S. senator from Maine

“He went on to overcome adversity with a grace and purpose that not only moved his nation, but countless others toward justice and freedom.”

Mike Michaud

U.S. representative from Maine

“(He was) a man of quiet dignity and towering achievement, a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration.”

Ban Ki-moon

U.N. secretary general

“(He will) be remembered as the founder of a vibrant democracy who brought justice and freedom to millions.”

Susan Collins

U.S. senator from Maine

“A great light has gone out in the world.”

David Cameron

British prime minister

“Even when faced with the cruelty of apartheid, even when he was put in prison for his political beliefs, he continued to believe that peace, nonviolence and dialogue would triumph over injustice.”

(Continued on page 2)

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)