Leaders of the U.S. House and Senate held a ceremony today celebrating the life, legacy, and values of Nelson Mandela, Nobel Peace Prize winner and former president of South Africa, on the occasion of his 95th birthday. The event took place in the United States Capitol. Following are Sen. McConnell's remarks delivered during the ceremony:
"Rare is the leader who rises to such prominence that his name becomes globally recognized as a symbol for causes greater than himself.
"Rarer still is a leader who can directly challenge an established order, upend nearly every convention of a society, and still find a way to establish himself as a unifying figure. Not just for his own people, but for people the world over. Across the divides of continents. Across the borders of nations. The frontiers of ideologies.
"Even though that kind of leader might be a rarity, it's exactly what the world has in Nelson Mandela. The man we celebrate today. A leader whose name is synonymous with ideas like hope. And determination. And reconciliation.
"We admire this man, "Madiba,' for his stoic endurance all those years in prison, when he never lost his faith in humanity. But we also admire him for his insistence on what St. Paul might call the "more excellent way' to unity, when others at the time urged the easier road to vengeance, and division, and hate. And it is that quality which helped transform him from the leader of a cause into the Father of a Nation.
"So this morning, we honor this leader. And we do so -- both Republicans and Democrats, both Senators and Members of the House -- by reading his own words, so that he might inspire those gathered today to have the same kind of courage and foresight he had."