Nelson Mandela dies at 95
BATON ROUGE - Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratically-elected president and a colossal figure in global politics, has died at the age of 95.
South Africa's president, Jacob Zuma, made the announcement today, saying "we've lost our greatest son."
President Barack Obama also issued a statement Thursday evening about Mandela's death. Obama had met with Mandela's family earlier this year when he visited South Africa, but did not meet with the ailing leader, who was hospitalized throughout the U.S. president's visit.
"He achieved more than could be expected of any man, and today he has gone home," the president said. "He no longer belongs to us. He belongs to the ages."
Mandela was known for helping bridge the racial divide in his home country after South Africa was ripped apart by racial violence. He also spent 27 years in prison after he was accused of inciting workers' strikes during his push to end apartheid. After his release, Mandela became the first black South African president and served in office from 1994 to 1999, where he focused on dealing with institutionalised racism and poverty in the country.
It was his ability to forgive and reconcile the people of South Africa after decades of racial inequality that became his legacy, though. There were small moments, such as sitting down to lunch with the prosecutor from his trial, and larger ones such as in 1995 when South Africa won the Rugby World Cup finals and Mandela strode onto the field to congratulate the team, bringing the overwhelmingly white crowd to its feet with cheers of "Mandela! Mandela! Mandela!"
South Africans reacted to the news Thursday night with deep sadness at the loss of a man considered by many to be the father of the nation. Johannesburg resident Hamsa Moosa said after Mandela died that he "wouldn't be free" if not for the man affectionately known by his clan name "Madiba."
Mandela's work and ability to forgive also led to a global profile, with rock stars celebrating his birthday and several Hollywood portrayals of his struggle against racism. He inspired poets, musicians, filmmakers, and novelists throughout his life.
"As we remember his triumphs, let us, in his memory, not just reflect on how far we've come, but on how far we have to go," said Morgan Freeman, who portrayed Mandela in the 2009 film 'Invictus.'
In 2000, Mandela gave the commencement address at Southern University and was given honorary doctorates from both Southern and LSU. Southern also named their School of Public Policy in Mandela's honor.
"There are no words to capture the life and bravery of Nelson Mandela," said Southern University Chancellor Dr. James L. Llorens. "The world has lost the embodiment of courage and the commitment to the belief that freedom is worth giving one's life."