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  • Nelson Mandela

    by Senator Nancy Pelosi

    Posted on 2013-12-12

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    PELOSI. Thank you very much, Mr. Fattah, for taking this Special Order as part of the Congressional Black Caucus period of mourning for President Mandela.

    I was so proud that so many members from the CBC, Mr. McDermott, and others went to South Africa to be present at the celebration of the life and the memorial services for President Mandela. I wish that I could have gone. In fact, I thought I was. So did Mr. Van Hollen and Mr. Clyburn. But the business of the budget kept us here. Our thoughts and prayers were with all of you as we were at the National Cathedral yesterday.

    What I came to the floor to say is I wish to associate myself with all the beautiful sentiments expressed by my colleagues about an icon in the world--a person that is so unique in history, not just in our lifetime, but in the history of the world.

    When I was asked today some thoughts about President Mandela, I said that what he did reminded me of King Solomon. When King Solomon was to inherit the throne from his father, King David, he prayed to God with a great spirit of humility. In humility, he said: God, please give me the wisdom to be the king of your people and to follow in the footsteps of King David. Please give me wisdom and understanding so that I can do the job.

    And God came back to him another night and said: Solomon, because you did not ask for longevity, vengeance upon your enemies, or great wealth, I will give you more wisdom and more understanding than any other person has ever had, and people will come from all around and your wisdom will be renowned in the world for ages to come.

    It reminds me so much of Nelson Mandela because in his greatness was that spirit of humility--that humility that was open to wisdom, to understanding, to being in somebody else's place--that led him not to wish for a long life, though God gave him that; not to give him great wealth, which he did not possess; and certainly not to give him vengeance upon his enemies, because that was the opposite of what he was. In the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, as our colleagues have discussed, and the great wisdom God gave him, as well as the long life, he was able to use that wisdom springing from that humility to understand other people's situations and then do great things, things that would make him renowned for ages to come for his wisdom and for his spirit.

    I had the privilege of seeing President Mandela when he came to address a joint session of Congress in 1994 as the President of South Africa. Afterward, Speaker Foley had a luncheon. He invited a large number of us to have lunch with President Mandela.

    President Mandela spoke again at that luncheon, and what was sad about it was that he spoke about the price he paid to be the father of his country--at the expense of his being a father to his family. He talked about how it was to be separated from his family for over 26 years.

    Imagine that, trying to meet the needs of his wife and children, and also has his need to be a father. He made quite a sacrifice. It was urgent that he do so.

    But, again, in different periods of his life he demonstrated great courage, great determination, great strength, great persistence in prison, and great sadness about not seeing his family. And all of that strengthened him to say he really had to exploit the investments that had been made by the people of South Africa in the name Mandela. And he came out to be an example to the world of forgiveness, reconciliation, and of a strength unlike most of us have ever seen.

    As a Californian, we take some ownership of the Mandela issue, whether it was stopping investments in South Africa and the rest. Ron Dellums was the champion of this. So we are proud of the role that we played in from the State of California.

    It really is, again, in that same humility that is a virtue that we should all possess that I come to this floor to even talk about such a great person who went from a village, to a leader of a movement, to prison, to the presidency of South Africa; from a name that we heard in America, to a person who would address a joint session of Congress. But on top of all of that, to go from his village, to be a world icon.

    Thank you, my colleague, for giving me the time.

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