Mandela’s spirit touched many

Flowers left by well-wishers lean against the "Free Nelson Mandela" sculpture in Piedmont Park on Thursday night, Dec. 5, 2013 in honor of the former South African president who died earlier in the day.
Caption
Flowers left by well-wishers lean against the "Free Nelson Mandela" sculpture in Piedmont Park on Thursday night, Dec. 5, 2013 in honor of the former South African president who died earlier in the day.

Credit: BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM

Credit: BEN GRAY / BGRAY@AJC.COM

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: Today, we mourn the passing of a leader who was peerless in his sacrifice, courage and commitment to changing not only a nation, but the world. Nelson Mandela was truly a hero for the entire human race. As an undergraduate student at Howard University, I had the opportunity to meet President Mandela when he visited the campus in 1994. I was profoundly moved by his strength, dignity and grace. A photograph from that day hangs in my office. Mr. Mandela has been a constant source of inspiration for me and millions across the globe. We are all better because of the life he lived.

U.S. Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga.: I remember as a student during the early days of the Civil Rights movement reading about Mandela. We identified with the struggle of the people of South Africa. Mandela, was courageous, never became bitter and never become hostile. When he walked out of those prison gates, he walked with dignity and pride. We have lost one of the great saints among us. He helped liberate not just the people of South Africa and the continent of Africa, but the many people in bondage — in spirit and mind — all over the world. They said if Mandela can stand up, we can stand up. On my first trip to South Africa, I went to his house… I felt so unworthy to be standing in his presence. I knew I was standing in the presence of greatness. He gave me an unbelievable hug and told me the struggle continues.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young: His spiritual presence was far more important than his physical suffering. It seemed as though the more he suffered the stronger he became spiritually.

U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga.: The world lost a selfless champion of freedom, democracy and equality today. Nelson Mandela's courage in the face of terrible injustice helped dismantle apartheid, and his determined leadership guided South Africa through a process of reconciliation that at one time seemed impossible. Mandela's legacy will be one of dignity, forgiveness and a profound dedication to the principles that all free people hold dear. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of South Africa.

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga.: What impressed me most about Nelson Mandela was his humble spirit of forgiveness and love towards those who persecuted him. Neither angry nor vindictive, and with great courage and dignity, he endured 27 years in prison, sacrificing his liberty for the sake of all South Africans. Ultimately, he lived a life of triumph over evil and adversity, leaving the world a better place for his journey amongst us. The spirit of his life will remain in my heart as long as I live.

Shirley Brown 33, Buckhead: My dad worked for the United Nations and met him. He said how smart and how charasmatic and how strong he was. They couldn't break his spirit. It's heartbreaking to think of all those years he was in prison. I wish he had those years back.

Jeanette Hunter, 40, Sandy Springs: I know it's going to be felt around the world.

Toya Stokes, 38, Lawrenceville: He's such an iconic figure for - God, for everyone. He's like Gandhi. He represents humanity.

Chase Martin, 30, Chamblee: After his imprisonment he didn't seek revenge. He saw everyone as equal and he made things right.

Jeannette Martin, 31, Chamblee: He was a man who stood up for what he believed in and didn't back down.

Staff writers Craig Schneider and Daniel Malloy collected quotes for this article.

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