Pols react to the death of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has died at age 95.

Here’s the speech he delivered at his inauguration as president of South Africa in 1994:

President Obama made a statement a short while ago:

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

“The world has lost a true hero for freedom and we should all carry out his vision of equality in our daily lives.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the world has lost a leader who advanced the cause of equality and human rights, who overcame a history of oppression in South Africa to expand the reach of freedom worldwide. He led the campaign to defeat apartheid through non-violence, peace, and dialogue. He never allowed resentment to drive him away from the path of reconciliation. He emerged from prison to set free an entire nation; he shed the bonds of slave labor to reshape the fate of his people.

“Nelson Mandela once said that ‘courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.’ His life is the affirmation of this statement: a story of courage, a triumph over fear, a whole-hearted faith in the power, promise, and possibility of the human spirit. He inspired the world with his strength and perseverance, with his message of hope and his embrace of freedom. He left us a legacy of love and partnership.

“May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope. May his story long remind us to always look forward with optimism to the future. May it be a comfort to his family, to his friends and loved ones, to the people of South Africa that so many mourn the loss of this extraordinary man and incredible leader at this sad time.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Nelson Mandela, and my thoughts and prayers go out to his friends, family, and the people of South Africa. His legacy will live on forever in how we live our lives and fight for freedom and justice in a multi-racial society. We must pause and remember Madiba in his greatness; he used his life not for himself, but for the good of his country and the good of the world, and his spirit will live on.

“Even throughout his 27 years of incarceration and brutal treatment, his spirit was never broken and this stands as a testament to the power of reconciliation. Not only is Nelson Mandela the father of the liberation movement in South Africa, but he also laid the framework for modern liberation movements throughout the world. With a dignified defiance, Nelson Mandela never compromised his political principles or the mission of the anti-apartheid movement, fighting the global AIDS pandemic, ending poverty and preserving human rights.

“During Mr. Mandela’s trip to the United States in 1990, it was a great honor to be a member of the host committee that welcomed him to my district of Oakland, California. One of my proudest moments as a member of Congress was when I led the effort to remove Mr. Mandela and the ANC from the U.S. Terrorist Watch list in time for his 90th birthday. I served as an official election observer for the 1994 South African elections when President Mandela was first elected, and it was a magnificent reminder that perhaps one day my own country would elect an African American president.

“Mr. Mandela exuded a larger-than-life presence and a humble spirit that was remarkable; he is my hero and an inspiration to us all. While this earth will miss the physical presence of Nelson Mandela, his indomitable nature, his gentle spirit, and overwhelming smile will remain with us all. My heart is heavy as we mourn the loss and celebrate the life of this great warrior.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“Nelson Mandela fought heroically for freedom and a truly democratic society. His courageous life shows what’s possible when one acts on his convictions.”

From former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:

“I will never forget the time I spent with President Mandela.

“Even before I met him, he was one of my heroes. But during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in South Africa, I had the opportunity to stand with him in his former jail cell at Robben Island to light the torch, and his legend grew before my eyes.

“He told me about his struggles, his time in captivity, his persecution and oppression. Most people would have had nothing in their heart but revenge, but all President Mandela had was forgiveness. He is the definition of serving a cause greater than self. He single-handedly reunited his nation, because he had a vision of the future that should inspire all of us.

“President Mandela’s life is the closest thing we have to proof of God. I will never be able to thank him enough for his inspiration. Today, each of us should commit to do at least one small thing to improve the planet in his honor. Give back. Help someone. Change the world.

“My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of South Africa.

From Assembly Speaker John Pérez, D-Los Angeles:

“The world has lost one of the greatest crusaders for justice it has ever known. As we mourn his passing we must also remember the meaning of Nelson Mandela’s struggle and triumph. The fight for equality and justice must go on, here at home and around the world.”

From state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco:

“Nelson Mandela was a brave and noble man who fought seemingly impossible odds in the fight for equality and justice, and his loss will be felt the whole world over. He inspired countless people around the world by insisting that all people were entitled to a voice in how their government works. His life stands as a reminder that our rights must be fought for, but also that they are attainable. By continuing to fight to include more people in our democracy, we honor his legacy. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of South Africa.”

More, after the jump…

From Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley:

“Responding with sorrow is simply not a fitting tribute for Nelson Mandela. The life of this courageous and just man is to be celebrated. Nelson Mandela’s eternal mission was the fight for freedom and civil rights. He will continue to inspire generations of people to stand up for social justice. His example will live on forever.

“The most joyous moment of my life came when I joined thousands at the Oakland Coliseum to be with Nelson Mandela who came to thank folks like me who had played a small role in bringing down South Africa’s apartheid regime.

“Being a part of that movement and seeing South Africa convert to a democracy with the full participation of its citizens taught me that change is possible.”

From Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez:

“I join in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela today and reflect on the enormous mark he made on the lives of South Africans and people throughout the world struggling for freedom and justice. Nelson Mandela taught us so much during his long, brave and difficult life, and we should honor his legacy by emulating his courage and determination as we carry on the fight for peace and justice.”

From Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom:

“The world has lost a great man and moral leader. Like Moses before him, Nelson Mandela led his country out of the chains of oppression and ushered in a new era of humanity for all of South Africa.

“Undeterred by nearly 30 years of imprisonment, his message of peace, reconciliation and multiracial national unity laid the groundwork for the end of apartheid and the unification of a vastly divided nation.

“Today the heavens have a bright new star whose shining example is a light by which we all can walk the course of life.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“The world has lost one of the giant champions of civil rights, a man who paid a huge personal price in the struggle for equality and dignity for all people. Once victory was achieved, he rose to true greatness by the rejection of vengeance; compassion toward his former enemies was the salve that helped heal the horrible wounds of apartheid. While I join the world in mourning Nelson Mandela’s passing, his legacy of achieving justice through peace will not die.”

From California Attorney General Kamala Harris:

“The world has lost a great leader with the passing of Nelson Mandela. He commanded an unwavering fight to end apartheid in South Africa, and his resolve inspired generations of leaders around the world to fight against inequality.

“He is a hero who led with grace and compassion. His spirit will live on in the hearts and minds of those who continue the fight for justice.”

From U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:

“Madiba’s ‘long walk to freedom’ gave new meaning to courage, character, forgiveness, and human dignity. Now that his long walk has ended, the example he set for all humanity lives on. He will be remembered as a pioneer for peace.

“There are some truly brave people in this world whom you meet and you’re forever changed for the experience. Nelson Mandela remains Teresa’s hero, and a person who inspired her as a young woman to march with her classmates against apartheid. We had the honor of sitting with Mandela over the Thanksgiving holidays of 2007. I was struck by how warm, open, and serene he was. I stood in his tiny cell on Robben Island, a room with barely enough space to lie down or stand up, and I learned that the glare of the white rock quarry permanently damaged his eyesight. It hit home even more just how remarkable it was that after spending 27 years locked away, after having his own vision impaired by the conditions, that this man could still see the best interests of his country and even embrace the very guards who kept him prisoner. That is the story of a man whose ability to see resided not in his eyes but in his conscience. It is hard to imagine any of us could summon such strength of character.

“Nelson Mandela was a stranger to hate. He rejected recrimination in favor of reconciliation and knew the future demands we move beyond the past. He gave everything he had to heal his country and lead it back into the community of nations, including insisting on relinquishing his office and ensuring there would be a peaceful transfer of power. Today, people all around the world who yearn for democracy look to Mandela’s nation and its democratic Constitution as a hopeful example of what is possible.

“Teresa and I join those from around the world in honoring the life of this great man. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife, Graça, his family, all the people of South Africa and everyone who today enjoys the freedom Madiba fought for his entire life.

From U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder:

“I join President Obama in expressing my heartfelt condolences to the people of South Africa, and the entire Mandela family, on the passing of Nelson Mandela.

“The world has lost an extraordinary pioneer and an unsurpassed champion for freedom and justice. As a lawyer and an activist, he inspired millions – not only in South Africa, but around the globe – to stand united against oppression and apartheid. As a statesman, he fought throughout his career to advance democratic values, working tirelessly to combat poverty, AIDS, and human rights abuses. As South Africa’s first democratically-elected president, he sought to bring healing to a torn and deeply divided country. And he became much more than the ‘father of a nation.’

“Like so many – in every corner of the globe – I have regarded President Mandela as a personal hero for decades. I was inspired years ago by his courage and his devotion to improving the lives of those around him. And when I had the privilege of meeting with him, as Deputy Attorney General, I found him to be a remarkable man and a brilliant and principled leader. His legacy will endure, and his important work will go on, in the efforts of all who continue to speak out for peace, for freedom, for justice, and for the dignity to which every human being is entitled. I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing today, and will hold his friends, loved ones, and countrymen and -women in my thoughts and prayers.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“The world lost a deeply courageous man today; his life’s work and achievements will forever serve as a bright example of absolute selflessness and humility in the ongoing struggle for human dignity and freedom.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.