As I seated myself, I could hardly believe I was sitting across from the man who had almost single-handedly brought down the system of apartheid. Yet Mandela called me "Mister Carter."
A great human being passes away, but he lives through his legacy of courage, integrity, compassion. I was one of the fortunate to have met Mandela on several occasions.
How did South Africa become what President Nelson Mandela termed "the Rainbow Nation" with Africans, Afrikaners, English and Indians living side by side -- far from utopia still, but certainly a non-violent democracy on the right path?
Tata Madiba. Looking at how every single South African, of every age, income, race and creed has united to mourn for you and celebrate you, we can almost say that your walk has been completed. Rest in peace.
Nelson Mandela deserves a place of honor with the dissidents and dreamers who knocked down the Berlin Wall and defeated the Soviet Union. And I am honored to have grown up watching it happen.
In thinking about Nelson Mandela, his life and his legacy, a metaphor comes to mind: that of a great, one-for-the-ages comet -- not unlike the Comet ISON that recently traveled around the sun. Mandela was a great comet of a man; we are not likely to see someone like him again anytime soon. He was a man who made a towering difference in history by the sheer force of his character. This included his steel determination, his dedication to forgiveness of and reconciliation with his enemies, and a willingness to grow, adapt and change for the better, for the betterment of his country and, no exaggeration, the world.
Nelson Mandela wasn't a "personality" politician. He was the leader of a movement and a model for the world. We'll be learning from his example long after the eulogies have ended.
I had the honor of working with Madiba often during my time as co-chairman of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission. Each and every time I was with him, I was awed by his commanding yet graceful presence.
Nelson Mandela was a natural leader. The essence of the man propelled him to greatness, amidst the suffering and depersonalization to which he was subjected, forgiving his jailers in a profound teaching of compassion.
It was a week of political protests, papal action, and the historic loss of Nelson Mandela. Separate the ridiculous from the redeeming by taking our Week to Week news quiz.
Though I had adopted the title of "African" American like most of my relations in the Diaspora, I was never more aware of how little I really knew about Africa and this African hero than I was on that day in 1990 he was freed from prison as the whole world watched.
For too many people, the issue of hunger is important but they do nothing about it because it seems too large or complex. As usual, Mandela had a way of conceptualizing this issue in simple terms with a moral imperative that would be hard for anyone to ignore.
Today, we lost one of the world's greatest sons and South Africa's greatest treasure. But now is not a time to mourn his passing but a time to reflect on all he taught us; a time to celebrate that he did indeed live and that we had a chance to know him.
He has been such a forceful presence in our collective minds ... the liberator of South Africa, the global torchbearer for freedom and liberty, the moral conscience of a world plagued by intolerance and violence. Is there anybody of stature today who can carry his torch? Alas, nobody comes to mind.
His work went beyond his people to all peoples, and beyond his country to every corner of the planet. If there is justice in this universe, in any form, Nelson Mandela will indeed rest in peace.
Because of Nelson Mandela, South Africa became the first country in the world to include constitutional protection for same-gender-loving persons.