The world is celebrating the life and legacy of the late former South African president and anti-apartheid champion Nelson Mandela who would have turned 100 on Wednesday.
World leaders gathered in Johannesburg on Tuesday to share and promote ideals that could advance the icon’s international vision. The first Black president of the United States, Barack Obama, gave a rousing tribute to the first Black president of South Africa.
Obama said that one hundred years ago, Madiba was born in the village of Mvezo.
“There was no reason to believe that a young Black boy at this time, in this place, could in any way alter history,” he said. “After all, South Africa was then less than a decade removed from full British control. Already, laws were being codified to implement racial segregation and subjugation, the network of laws that would be known as apartheid.
“Most of Africa, including my father’s homeland, was under colonial rule.”
Obama’s comments centered mostly on Mandela’s life as a leader but also focused on the needs for the world to reclaim the idea of democracy and the virtues of interdependency and globalism.
“So on Madiba’s 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads a moment in time at which two very different visions of humanity’s future compete for the hearts and the minds of citizens around the world.
“Two different stories, two different narratives about who we are and who we should be. How should we respond
“Should we see that wave of hope that we felt with Madiba’s release from prison, from the Berlin Wall coming down should we see that hope that we had as nave and misguided
“Should we understand the last 25 years of global integration as nothing more than a detour from the previous inevitable cycle of history where might makes right, and politics is a hostile competition between tribes and races and religions, and nations compete in a zero-sum game, constantly teetering on the edge of conflict until full-blown war breaks out Is that what we think
“Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln.
“I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they’re endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights.
“And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good. That’s what I believe.”
Obama also gave a veiled critique of the political climate currently taking place in the United States.
“I am not being alarmist, I’m simply stating the facts, ” he said. “Look around strongman politics are ascendant, suddenly, whereby elections and some pretense of democracy are maintained, the form of it, where those in powers seek to undermine every institution or norm that gives democracy meaning.”
Obama never mentioned Donald Trump by name, but skillfully alluded to the dysfunction that is currently running amok in D.C. as well as capital cities around the world categorizing it as “strange and uncertain times that we are in.”