Obama’s Complete Nelson Mandela Memorial Speech


Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. To
Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads
of states and government, past and present; distinguished guests — it is a singular
honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other. To the people of South
Africa — (applause) — people of every race and walk of life — the world thanks
you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was
your triumph. Your dignity and your hope found expression in his life. And your freedom,
your democracy is his cherished legacy. It is hard to eulogize any man — to capture
in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth
of a person — their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that
illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved
a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world. Born during World War I, far from the corridors
of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe,
Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century. Like Gandhi, he would
lead a resistance movement — a movement that at its start had little prospect for
success. Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the
moral necessity of racial justice. He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in
the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from
prison, without the force of arms, he would — like Abraham Lincoln — hold his country
together when it threatened to break apart. And like America’s Founding Fathers, he
would erect a constitutional order to preserve freedom for future generations — a commitment
to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness
to step down from power after only one term. Given the sweep of his life, the scope of
his accomplishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it’s tempting I think
to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs
of lesser men. But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. (Applause.)
Instead, Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears; his miscalculations
along with his victories. “I am not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as
a sinner who keeps on trying.” It was precisely because he could admit to
imperfection — because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the
heavy burdens he carried — that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble;
he was a man of flesh and blood — a son and a husband, a father and a friend. And
that’s why we learned so much from him, and that’s why we can learn from him still.
For nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned
his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, and persistence and faith. He
tells us what is possible not just in the pages of history books, but in our own lives
as well. Mandela showed us the power of action; of
taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud
rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father. And we know he shared with
millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights,
a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that
imprisoned my people,” he said. But like other early giants of the ANC — the
Sisulus and Tambos — Madiba disciplined his anger and channeled his desire to fight
into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand up
for their God-given dignity. Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions,
knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. “I have fought
against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I’ve 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.” (Applause.) Mandela taught us the power of action, but
he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need
to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with.
He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s
bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and
his passion, but also because of his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison
to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the
movement. And he learned the language and the customs of his oppressor so that one day
he might better convey to them how their own freedom depend upon his. (Applause.) Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas
are not enough. No matter how right, they must be chiseled into law and institutions.
He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history.
On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of unconditional
release, reminding the Apartheid regime that “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.” But as he showed in painstaking negotiations
to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a
larger goal. And because he was not only a leader of a movement but a skillful politician,
the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision
of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every
South African. And finally, Mandela understood the ties that
bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa — Ubuntu — (applause) — a
word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together
in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve
ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us. We can never know how much of this sense was
innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell. But we remember the
gestures, large and small — introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration;
taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront
HIV/AIDS — that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding. He not only
embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves. It took a man like Madiba to free not just
the prisoner, but the jailer as well — (applause) — to show that you must trust others so
that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past,
but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws,
but he also changed hearts. For the people of South Africa, for those
he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time
to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time
for self-reflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must
ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question I ask myself,
as a man and as a President. We know that, like South Africa, the United
States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice
— the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day.
Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle. (Applause.) But in America, and in South Africa,
and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact
that our work is not yet done. The struggles that follow the victory of formal
equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as
those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we
still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We
still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and
women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what
they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today. (Applause.) And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice.
We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s
legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge
chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity
with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people.
(Applause.) And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency
or cynicism when our voices must be heard. The questions we face today — how to promote
equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and
sectarian war — these things do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers
in front of that child born in World War I. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems
impossible until it is done. South Africa shows that is true. South Africa shows we
can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common
hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity. We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela
again. But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the
world — you, too, can make his life’s work your own. Over 30 years ago, while still
a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful
land, and it stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and
to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while
I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man. (Applause.)
He speaks to what’s best inside us. After this great liberator is laid to rest,
and when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines,
let us search for his strength. Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside
of ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts,
when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach, let us think of Madiba and the words that
brought him comfort within the four walls of his cell: “It matters not how strait
the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the
captain of my soul.” What a magnificent soul it was. We will miss
him deeply. May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God bless the people of South
Africa.

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. The U.S. has called Gaddafi a dangerous man for supporting "terrorists", referring to his support for The ANC, Nelson Mandela, and African liberation movements. Gaddafi was a huge supporter of Mandela and the ANC. Obama and NATO had Gaddafi murdered without a trial, and then Obama gives a speech at Nelson Mandela's memorial service a few years later? Smh.

  2. patrice lumumba and mandela were the wheels of revolution that changed africa for good oh if only lumumba had been alive. congo would have been africas powerhouse

  3. I would like to thank you to those people who posted these videos. We shall always remember this day and this strongest speech of America's leader. The son of the nation and also the son of the Abathembu has gone to rest peacefully. When the God speaks Always his words is the last words. He decided to take the hero of the nation and we have accepted though our heart are painful your soul may rest in peace Tata

  4. One terrorist supporting another terrorist. Burn in hell, Mandela! Death to the ANC! Long live the Afrikaners! Onwards to Rhodesia!

  5. I'm proudly South African and will always love this speach. I accept every thing and show a great honor to my president and wouldn't be where I am now if it wasn't for Mandela so this is dear to my heart.

  6. Good speech that.
    Someone said that Mandela was the first such activist to reach old age.
    It is said that there are more liberties in South Africa now than in the USA.
    The USA and South Africa have had similar histories. For instance both started out as partially Dutch and then British colonies.
    It also seems that often whatever happens in the one country also happens in the other. For instance, in 1994 both countries moved more away from isolation and into the international community. In South Africa it was with the first democratic elections, and in the USA it was with the Soccer World Cup. (And then, South Africa moved more towards that with the 2010 Soccer World Cup.)

  7. but nobody cared to watch the greatest hip hop tribute song made with this Obama speech, see Revolution Nelson Mandela Tribute on my channel and thank me later !

  8. unfortunately person could not come back when he dies not so Great Mandela should have come back that same day to take this man off cos he's Africa enemy number one

  9. "His triumph was your triumph" No his triumph was that country's downfall. AIDS, rape, and murder at the highest rates on the Planet Earth is his legacy. Return the Boer to power and bring back Apartheid now.

  10. Very inspirational…. out of curiosity who is that woman Annan greets? it seems it it being pointed out to him to greet her.

  11. Mandela was loved by his people. He sets a good example for all the leaders in the world. Leaders are born not made. He left us with 2Timothy 4:7-8. He has Finished his Assignment that God has given him.

  12. Anything that Seems Impossible go for it. Because we served a God Who make the impossible possible. Amen 🙏. Great speech Mr. President. Nelson Mandela left the battle for us. The struggles continued.

  13. And remember Obie-USA and Cruz-USA political prisoner taking is not right . Release your political prisoners now ! You know who they are, its the ones that are so good at releasing chopper cam footage !

  14. Well i hope the Kids of Dr Nelson Mandela see how much motivation and influence he gave around the world,while yhey did not have a father growing up. God bless the Mandelas

  15. today in history , 27 years ago on the 10th of feb 1990 Mr Mandela it was announced that he will be released, watching this video breaks my heart but we will always remember him.

  16. I love Barack Obama. The main man in the world that I love. I love everytime.i hear him speak. I wish I knew him personally.

  17. Thank you Madiba,as go to your heavenly Father,you were the only leader who accepted his impefections,thank you south Africa for sharing Mandela with us

  18. I don't think Trump would've done this speech. Trump appears to be out if touch with Mandela. Obama looked up to Mandela in many ways. Great eulogy though.

  19. We loved you, Madiba. You were great and honourable. Those who followed you (excluding Mbeki but including Zuma and Ramaphosa) are evil and dangerous. Why would they defy you so? Why would they risk the peace we agreed upon – for their own selfish desperation brought about by their mismanagement and irresponsibility? Accept… Like you did. Fix… Like you did. No… They decide to divide us. They kick us apart like only Apartheid could. Is it time to change our votes, South Africa? Can we still avoid the bloody hell Madiba prevented us from entering into after '94? I hope so with all my heart. I hope so.

  20. A GREAT speech honoring a GREAT man like President Mandela ! Every word President Obama said applies to us, initiated by President Mandela ! May President Mandela remain blessed !