HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania’s chief executive remembered former South African President Nelson Mandela on Thursday as “a colossus of freedom.”
Gov. Tom Corbett issued a statement that said the world lost one of its greatest statesmen and a champion of liberty.
Mandela, an anti-apartheid icon and his country’s first black president, died at age 95.
Besides the Nobel Peace Prize, he shared the Liberty Medal in Philadelphia in 1993 with F.W. de Klerk, South Africa’s last white president.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter recalled meeting Mandela and described him as one of the most remarkable and influential people he has ever met. He also traveled to the cell where Mandela was imprisoned under apartheid on Robben Island.
Nutter compared him to Indian independence leader Mohandas K. Gandhi and American civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr., along with Philadelphia area leaders who fought for equality.
“He had an unbending belief in freedom, democracy and the potential of every person regardless of race, nationality and gender,” Nutter said. “The world has lost a great hero. Let us honor him by seeking to be as good as he was.”
Corbett said the world was a better place because of Mandela.
“His personal courage in the fight for human equality and human rights was matched by his generosity of spirit in seeking unity and reconciliation after freeing his nation from the grip of apartheid,” Corbett said.
Mandela delivered a speech at the University of Pittsburgh in 1991, in which he said that “established states and social systems are demonstrating a fragility and an ephemeral quality which the most incisive intellectual inquiry could never convey with the fullness of drama which life itself provides.”
U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Mandela’s commitment to justice and equality will be an example for generations to come.