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Nelson Mandela Day

Location: Boston, MA

To Speaker Robert DeLeo and the members of the Legislature who are here, the Mayor who will be here in just a minute, to all of my brothers and sisters, good afternoon. I am very, very pleased to be here with you all this afternoon to celebrate 95 years of a living example of the power of leading by love. You don't hear leaders talk much about leading by love. Not nowadays. You hear forceful leadership. Cunning leadership. Smart leadership. Strong leadership. But you don't hear much about loving leadership. But it might be that loving leadership, leading by love, is the most powerful kind of leadership. And Nelson Mandela may be the most and best example of that. Because when you consider generations of Apartheid in South Africa -- a systematic organization to grind up human dignity, and cause people to lose hope in tomorrow -- it is entirely possible and, it seems to me in some ways, predictable that black South Africans would be entitled to their rage. And yet, President Mandela's message was different indeed.

Nelson Mandela famously wrote:

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

He taught us to find common cause through common humanity. And it is a powerful lesson. We got a glimpse of what that looks like, just a couple months ago, starting right around the corner. Because on April 15th, for a whole lot of folks, love was not our first thought.

The horrific events of that day brought such tragedy and devastation -- the deaths of three innocents from the blasts and of an MIT police officer five days later; the brutal and in some cases profound injury of hundreds of others; the shock to us all. The senselessness of it all, even now, is hard to absorb.

And yet in some ways Marathon Monday and the days following brought out the best in our community: the EMTs, volunteers and bystanders who rushed to aid and comfort the victims; the medical professionals who made the world's best care better and lost not one patient who made it to hospital; the law enforcement teams -- federal, state and local -- and the National Guard, who committed to resolving this crime and doing so collaboratively.

The everyday people who, in their own private ways, showed repeated acts of kindness, compassion and courage.

Out of the dust of tragedy, the spirit of community emerged. It might just have been our finest hour because we showed the world -- and each other -- what Nelson Mandela taught us: that nothing can defeat the spirit of love, and people who have learned to turn to each other, rather than on each other.

That spirit is alive in Nelson Mandela today. It has been for 95 years. Let it live on in you and me. Happy Birthday, Mr. President.

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