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Kerry Kennedy Headshot

We Mourn the Loss of Global Human Rights Icon, Nelson Mandela

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It is with profound sadness that the board and staff of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights (RFK Center) offer our condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former president of the Republic of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.

Mr. Mandela's determination and steadfast commitment to equality remains an inspiration to activists and ordinary citizens the world over. Nearly three decades of imprisonment only strengthened his resolve to enhance the freedom of others, bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa, and shaping a multiracial democracy following a regime that had operated on principles of hate and subjugation.

The iconic life of Nelson Mandela is testament to the fact that the road to freedom is quite often long and fraught with great personal sacrifice. Despite enduring the abhorrent consequences of racism and discrimination, Mr. Mandela embraced and implemented the notions of reconciliation and togetherness merely paid lip service by some of his contemporaries. Nelson Mandela represents an enduring example of the human spirit and he proved for eternity that the ideals of democracy and human rights can overcome even the direst of circumstances.

Mr. Mandela was a wellspring of hope for his fellow countrymen, as well those still mired in the clutches of repression around the globe. His moral certitude embodied Robert F. Kennedy's belief that "each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance"--a belief Robert Kennedy shared with university students in Apartheid-era South Africa nearly half a century ago.

The towering legacy of Mr. Mandela lives on through the bravery that he so deftly and humbly instilled in those around him, as well as the countless others inspired by his example who will step forward to challenge the status quo, stand firmly on the side of the downtrodden and marginalized, and speak truth to power, and in so doing, help make the world a better place despite seemingly insurmountable odds. For in the words of Nelson Mandela himself, "It always seems impossible until it is done."

Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela.