Mandela’s Legacy: Tributes From Around the World

A roundup of quotes from political leaders, entertainers and other prominent figures reacting to the icon’s passing. 

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Nelson Mandela 

ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/Getty Images

"The soul of Africa has departed, and there is nothing miraculous left in the world." —Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer

"All that I can do is thank God that I had a grandfather who loved and guided all of us in the family. The best lesson that he taught all of us was the need for us to be prepared to be of service to our people ... We are now preparing to celebrate his contribution to this country, to the world and to our family. Celebrating his long life is the best accolade we can give him." —Mandla Mandela, grandson 

"Our thoughts are with the South African people, who today mourn the loss of the one person who, more than any other, came to embody their sense of a common nation. Our thoughts are with the millions of people across the world who embraced Madiba as their own, and who saw his cause as their cause. This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost its greatest son." —South African President Jacob Zuma

"My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid. I would study his words and his writings, the day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so, as long as I live, I will do my best to do what I can to learn from him." —President Barack Obama

"We will forever draw strength and inspiration from Nelson Mandela's extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness and humility." —First lady Michelle Obama

“President Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as someone who gave up so much of his life in the struggle for freedom so that millions could have a brighter future." —United Nations Security Council

"One of the great honors of my life was to be invited to Nelson Mandela's home, spend private time and get to know him. He was everything you've ever heard and more -- humble and unscathed by bitterness. And he always loved to tell a good joke. Being in his presence was like sitting with grace and majesty at the same time. He will always be my hero. His life was a gift to us all." —Oprah Winfrey

"Paying tribute to the steadfast commitment shown by Nelson Mandela in promoting the human dignity of all the nation's citizens and in forging a new South Africa built on the firm foundations of nonviolence, reconciliation and truth, I pray that the late president's example will inspire generations of South Africans to put justice and the common good at the forefront of their political aspirations." —Pope Francis

"He was a man of courage, principle and unquestionable integrity, a great human being, someone of whom we can truly say, 'He lived a meaningful life.' I pray for him and offer my heartfelt condolences to you, the members of your family and the entire people of South Africa." —The Dalai Lama

"What I will remember most about Mr. Mandela is that he was a man whose heart, soul and spirit could not be contained or restrained by racial and economic injustices, metal bars or the burden of hate and revenge. He taught us forgiveness on a grand scale." —Muhammad Ali 

"Nelson Mandela is physically separated from us, but his soul and spirit will never die. He belongs to the whole world because he is an icon of equality, freedom and love, the values we need all the time everywhere. His long, long struggle is a great demonstration of humanity. I have learned so much from Nelson Mandela, and he has been my leader. He is a perpetual inspiration for me and millions of others around the world." —Malala Yousafzai, teenage Pakistani education activist

"The Queen was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela last night. He worked tirelessly for the good of his country, and his legacy is the peaceful South Africa we see today. Her Majesty remembers with great warmth her meetings with Mr. Mandela and sends her sincere condolences to his family and the people of South Africa at this very sad time." —Queen Elizabeth II of England

"His wisdom and goodness were the brightest stars in our moral galaxy. His courage inspired all who struggled for justice. His vision gave sight to those who otherwise might have been blinded by hate. His truth will live forever." —Harry Belafonte 

"Today the world lost one of the true giants of the past century. Nelson Mandela was a man of incomparable honor, unconquerable strength and unyielding resolve -- a saint to many, a hero to all who treasure liberty, freedom and the dignity of humankind. 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." —Morgan Freeman

"Nelson Mandela's message will not fade away; it will continue to inspire those who fight for freedom and give confidence to the people who defend just and universal causes. Nelson Mandela has been an exceptional resistor and a magnificent victor. He showed that the human will can not only break chains but use energy to successfully build a common destiny." —French President François Hollande

"Nelson Mandela was among the greatest figures of our time. He was the father of his country, a man of vision and a freedom fighter who disavowed violence. He set a personal example for his country during the long years in which he was imprisoned. He was never haughty. He worked to heal rifts within South African society and succeeded in preventing outbreaks of racial hatred." —Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

"Madiba's 'long walk to freedom' gave new meaning to courage, character, forgiveness and human dignity. Now that his long walk has ended, the example he set for all humanity lives on. He will be remembered as a pioneer for peace. There are some truly brave people in this world whom you meet and you're forever changed for the experience ... We had the honor of sitting with Mandela over the Thanksgiving holidays of 2007. I was struck by how warm, open and serene he was." —Secretary of State John Kerry

"Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. And Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend. ... We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life." —Former President Bill Clinton

"Nelson Mandela was a champion for justice and human dignity, with unmatched grace. I'll remember him as Madiba, truly an unconquerable soul." —Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

"I knew him. I had dinner with him. I had conversations with him, and what always struck me was his humbleness. He was a humble, gentle, warm person, even though he was a fighter on the military stage as well as the political stage ... He approached everybody he met as a fellow human being and equal to him, and that's what I remember." —Former Secretary of State Colin Powell 

"His passion for freedom and justice created new hope for generations of oppressed people worldwide, and because of him, South Africa is today one of the world's leading democracies. In recent years, I was gratified to be able to work with him through The Elders to encourage resolution of conflicts and advance social justice and human rights in many nations." —Former President Jimmy Carter

"African Americans have really been denied what most Americans enjoy. And that is their history, from where they came from. Not only were our names taken away, our culture, our songs, our history, our language, but Africans were demonized. When I was a kid, the worst thing you could do was call anyone an African. But when Nelson Mandela came on the scene, where every black kid could say, 'Gee, Mom, that great guy looks just like me, doesn't he?' He has given to African Americans something that you can't get out of churches and you couldn't get out of schools. He gave us an identity to know. When God made him, and made us to look like him, he was thinking about all of us. And so I don't know what it takes for God to pick up a saint, but I'll tell you one thing: He'd win in any election for sainthood, all over the world." —Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.)

"What an honor it was to step into the shoes of Nelson Mandela and portray a man who defied odds, broke down barriers and championed human rights before the eyes of the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family." —Idris Elba, who played Mandela in the new movie Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

"Today South Africa lost its spiritual father. Too often violence and oppression lead to further violence and retribution. He taught us to fight back with peace. Long before we made this movie, I was inspired, as so many have been, by the leadership, grace and compassion of Nelson Mandela. While no single film can replicate a person's life, I am very proud to be part of our tribute to this extraordinary man." —Naomie Harris, who played Winnie Mandela in Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

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