Mr. Speaker, Nelson Mandela, as we know, was a hero for social justice and a model of leadership for me and leaders around the globe. Born during the years of apartheid, he was a resilient democratic leader, a peacemaker, and inspiring fighter for racial equality.
As it has been stated and is a well-known fact, Mr. Mandela spent 27 years in prison. Let's look at that time in a little more detail.
He was jailed as a young man, with two young children, one of them being only 3 years old. He wasn't able to touch her again for 27 years. While in prison, his mother passes away and his first-born son dies in a tragic car accident, never being able to say good-bye. Also, during that time, his wife was subjected to both physical and mental abuse. She was locked up in prison for 16 months in solitary confinement.
So how does a person after all that strife and all that grief come out of prison and talk about reconciliation?
President Mandela never let his 27 years in prison deter him from doing what he knew was right by ending apartheid and bringing democracy to the country that he loved. Even in the face of extreme diversity, he has proven that, with a noble cause and internal will, one person can change the tide of oppression. One person can change an entire country and, in turn, the entire world.
Although I did not have the pleasure of meeting President Mandela, he has always been a role model to me. Likewise, he was an inspiration to my father, the late Congressman Donald Payne, who toiled on the continent of Africa for equal rights and humanity for all people, and especially in South Africa.
So I am thankful for his tireless years of service and for being an example to true leadership. My condolences and prayers go out to the Mandela family and to the country of South Africa as the entire world mourns such a great loss.
Although Madiba is gone, his work and the imprint he has made on this world will never be forgotten.
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