Biden: Nelson Mandela “taught us that trust is possible”

During a memorial service Wednesday at the Washington National Cathedral, Vice President Biden urged the world to learn the lessons of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died last week.

Recalling Mandela’s decision to work with his jailers and make the reconciliation of South Africa his top prioritiy, Biden said, “President Mandela taught us that trust is possible, reconciliation is possible, justice is possible, change can come.”

“There was nothing inevitable about South Africa’s transition to democracy, amid the dancing and joy, there were violent clashes in the townships that day and several young people were shot dead. South Africa could have easily started down the path of violent revolution and generations of instability that day if Nelson Mandela had been an ordinary man like me and you, had he embraced the urge for revenge and power, a path most other revolutionaries in modern history have followed to the detriment of their people,” Biden said.

The vice president recalled a congressional trip to South Africa when he was a young senator, where he was expected to stand apart from the other members of his delegation, who were black. The Afrikaner soldiers looked at he and his colleagues like “criminals.” He refused to stand apart from them.

 

 “I came home from that experience feeling U.S. had moral obligation to do all it could to end that system,” he said.

He said Mandela’s life was well-lived because of the courage and loyalty he exhibited.

“The physical courage he showed is exceeded only by the moral courage that he evidenced, by the defiance he showed of the violent, repressive regime that had done so much to him and his people,” Biden said.

Other world leaders, including President Obama, remembered Mandela at a memorial service in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday.


  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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