Mandela’s legacy will inspire people for years to come

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(CNN) — Today, as we mourn the loss of one of history’s most transformational leaders, let us also pay tribute to his life and legacy. Let us dedicate ourselves to remembering his lessons and continue his efforts to spread democracy, freedom and equality across the globe.

Nelson Mandela was a civil rights activist, teacher, freedom fighter, “Father of the Nation,” political prisoner, father, husband and an inspiration to the entire global community.

He fought for democracy, not only in his own home of South Africa, but across the world. He explained: “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Years after organizing against apartheid in front of the South African Embassy in Washington, I first had the honor of meeting Mr. Mandela in 1993 when I escorted him to President Clinton’s Inaugural event at the D.C. Armory. A year later, I went to South Africa to help train election workers and had the privilege of meeting him again.

A man of great dignity and curiosity, he was anxious to know how we went about organizing political campaigns and getting people involved in politics. He was eager to hear stories from many of us who had worked in the segregated Deep South.

Like so many others fighting for progress, I have drawn inspiration from Nelson Mandela. He showed us that it was possible to create lasting change, peace and stability even in the most formidable circumstances.

He was an advocate for the downtrodden and believed that, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

A great warrior has died. A man who dedicated his life to liberating his country from apartheid and transform his nation and continent.

Nelson Mandela was the President of a New South Africa: An optimist who believed he could help lead the country away from its violent past and to bring people from all walks of life together.

President Barack Obama and the first lady said it best, “Nelson Mandela’s personal story is one of unbreakable will, unwavering integrity and abiding humility.” He has, “changed the arc of history, transforming his country, continent and the world.”

Madiba, today and forever, we will remember you — and your legacy will live on.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Donna Brazile.

Editor’s note: Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and a Democratic strategist, is vice chairwoman for voter registration and participation at the Democratic National Committee. She is a nationally syndicated columnist, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and author of “Cooking with Grease: Stirring the Pot in America.” She was manager for the Gore-Lieberman presidential campaign in 2000.

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