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Sheila J.
Democrat TX 18

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  • Nelson Mandela

    by Representative Sheila Jackson Lee

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    JACKSON LEE. Let me thank the Congressional Black Caucus and Mr. Fattah and our chairwoman, Congresswoman Fudge, for bringing us all together on this very important evening.

    It gives me great privilege to be able to speak about this patriot, this human rights leader, this father and husband, this man who experienced incarceration, yet came out with the limitations that would normally shackle anyone, completely released.

    It is important to connect Nelson Mandela to Houston; and this signifies many of us who gathered in front of the Federal building just a week ago to be able to honor him and to acknowledge him. So many of us wanted to share and extend our love.

    We also participated in honoring him in restaurants in southwest Houston. And throughout the week, as I go home this week, we will honor him at the George L. Brown Convention Center and the SHAPE Community Center.

    Last Sunday I was able to call in to a very important honoring at the Rothco Chapel celebrating Dominique de Menil, who invited Nelson Mandela to Houston, Texas in 1991, 1 year after he was released from Robbens Island.

    {time} 1930 And the surprise and the excitement was that he accepted her invitation--the de Menils being great humanitarians themselves--and brought together the connection between Houston, the Nation, South Africa, and the patriot that Nelson Mandela, Madiba, was and, of course, we will always be reminded of.

    We listen to the stories of the time that he had to pull away from the ANC to form a fighting unit, if you will, a rebel unit. And I also explain to people that it was no less than the patriots who stood on the shores of this country to fight against oppression and to stand against the British and to dump tea into the Boston Harbor, to rebel against oppression. So I would never call Nelson Mandela a terrorist. I would call him a patriot, one who loved his beloved South Africa and wanted to make sure that those who understood that apartheid could not stand would recognize that he had no other choice. But yet, in time, he was able to make other choices.

    And I am reminded of his words: ``courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.'' And he triumphed over fear. But he also triumphed over bitterness. And he opened his arms, coming out of that incarceration in 1990 and walking in freedom, standing with his then- wife Winnie--and now the beloved wife who has been with him for the past 15 years. He expressed to the nation his humanity, his humility.

    An elder statesman, a father figure, Nelson Mandela showed us that in the course of the debate here on the floor of the House that we should never forget the vulnerable.

    I want to read these words that he gave in defense in the 1964 trial: I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

    [[Page H8092]] I have met Nelson Mandela many times, engaged in the efforts to ensure that the apartheid oppression would end, joined with Congresswoman Barbara Lee in 2008 to rid his name off the terrorist list. All of us in our small way are diminished by the commitment, dedication, and sacrifice of this man.

    And so finally I close by saying to all in a letter that he wrote from Robben Island in April of 1971, for many of us who had the experience of walking into that cell and looking through those prison bars, to be reminded of the peace that he brought to the Nation and to the world: There are times when my heart almost stops beating, slowed down by heavy loads of longing. I would love to bathe once more in the waters of Umbashe, as I did at the beginning of 1935.

    He comforted himself by the wishes of hope. He comforted himself by wishing to hear the voices of children. He comforted himself by wanting to be what the people of South Africa needed, an unembittered leader coming forward to lift the country up.

    Madiba, may you rest in peace. Nelson Mandela, thank you for your years of service. Thank you for leading South Africa. And thank you for leading the world.

    I acknowledge and thank the many persons who have spoken today about Nelson Mandela.

    On this sad day, the thoughts, prayers, and wishes of all Americans, and peace loving people the world over, are with Nelson Mandela and his family.

    Nelson Mandela once said that ``courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it.'' What is the message and meaning of Nelson Mandela to the world? Courage in the cause of moral righteousness will triumph in the end; Love, forgiveness, and reconciliation is far more powerful that hatred, resentment, and war; That we should ``never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.'' Nelson Mandela's commitment to humanity as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker, and as the first elected president of a free, democratic, and multiracial Republic of South Africa inspired the world.

    Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to serving humanity and making the world better for our children.

    Nelson Mandela once said that the one of things that bothered him most during his imprisonment was not being able to hear the laughter and experience the joy of children.

    His life teaches us the importance of instilling in our children a zest for living and a love for serving others.

    Today we honor the life and work of a man went from a militant freedom fighter, to political prisoner, to a unifying figure, to elder statesman of the world.

    He was a father figure, elder statesman and global ambassador. He was the guarantee, almost like an insurance policy, that South Africa's young democracy and its leaders will pursue the nation's best interests. He led the campaign to defeat apartheid through non- violence, peace, and dialogue.

    Nelson Mandela 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's life is the a story of courage and a triumph over fear, and unyielding 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 shared that legacy of love and partnership with us 22 years ago this day when he came to Houston's Rothko Chapel on December 8, 1991 shortly after his release from prison.

    May the life of Nelson Mandela long stand as the ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope in the quest for freedom.

    As Nelson Mandela said: ``To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.'' May it be a comfort to his family and to the people of South Africa that so many mourn the loss of this extraordinary man and world historic figure.

    I will be remembering and thinking of these things as I travel to Johannesburg, South Africa to attend the memorial service of one of the greatest persons in the record history of mankind.

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