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Tagged: South Africa

So... we usually post pictures of First Lady Michelle Obama and her family, but I figured I'd make an exception for the one and only Oprah Winfrey.

Oprah Winfrey at Nelson Mandela's Funeral

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Oprah Winfrey at Nelson Mandela’s Funeral:

The Government of South Africa posted some photos of President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama's trip to South Africa for Nelson Mandela's memorial service.

French President Hollande and USA President Obama share a light moment.

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President Barack Obama Speaking at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama Speaking at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service 2:
President Barack Obama Speaking at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service 3:
President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama Greets Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama Chats with South African Businessman Patrice Motsepe and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama Takes a Picture with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial:
Barack Obama at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
French President Hollande and USA President Obama share a light moment.:
President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Chat at Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Former President George W Bush Arrive in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama Arrive in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service:
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Former President George W Bush Arrive in South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s Memorial Service 2:

Barack and Michelle travelled to South Africa for Nelson Mandela's memorial service with former President George Bush, former First Lady Laura Bush, former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and other members of President Obama's administration. President Obama was given the privilege of speaking at the memorial for the beloved leader.

President Obama speaks at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, Dec. 10, 2013.

President Obama speaks at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela in Soweto, South Africa, Dec. 10, 2013.

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The Bushes and the Obamas telling jokes en route to @SouthAfrica:
The Bushes and the Obamas chat aboard Air Force One:
President Obama chatting with Bill and @ChelseaClinton at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
Barack and Michelle talk with Bono at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
President Obama greets Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow.:
President Obama makes his way off the field following his remarks at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.:
President Obama shakes hands with the crowd at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
President Obama greets security personnel at Nelson Mandela’s memorial.:
President Obama speaking at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service:
President Obama preparing to speak at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
The Obamas talk w/ @ClintonNews @Rhodes44 & Capricia Marshall en route to @SouthAfrica for Madiba’s memorial:
Pres Bush shows off his paintings to 1st Lady Michelle @ClintonNews @AmbassadorRice AG Holder & @LauraWBush:
President Obama and @Rhodes44 prepare a speech for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
The Obamas, Bushes, and @ClintonNews arrive in @SouthAfrica for Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
President Obama welcomed to Nelson Mandela’s memorial service by President Yayi Boni of Benin.:
President Obama with @PresidencyZA Jacob Zuma at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
Barack and Michelle Obama sit with other world leaders at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service.:
A somber moment as the Obamas and the Bushes depart @SouthAfrica.:
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Leslie Robinson, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Marian Robinson, tour the Lime Quarry on Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013. Ahmed Kathrada, a former prisoner in Robben Island Prison, leads their tour.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Leslie Robinson, daughters Malia and Sasha, and Marian Robinson, tour the Lime Quarry on Robben Island in Cape Town, South Africa, June 30, 2013. Ahmed Kathrada, a former prisoner in Robben Island Prison, leads their tour.

Today, our family visited Robben Island for an experience we will never forget. Robben Island is located off the coast of South Africa, and from the 1960s through the 1990s, this Island housed a maximum security prison. Many of the prisoners there – including the guide for our visit, a man named Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada – were activists who worked to bring down Apartheid, the South African government’s policies that discriminated against people of color.  Under Apartheid, people of different races were separated in nearly every part of South African society.  They were forced to attend separate schools, live in separate neighborhoods, even swim at separate beaches – and in nearly every case, the neighborhoods, schools and other facilities for black people were much worse than the ones for white people.

Among those imprisoned at Robben Island for fighting Apartheid were three men who went on to become President of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe and the current president, Jacob Zuma.

So today, as we toured the island, I couldn’t help but think about how this place must have shaped these leaders.  Put yourself in their shoes – all they were doing was fighting to ensure that people in South Africa would be treated equally, no matter what the color of their skin.  And for that, they wound up confined on this remote island, far removed from the world they so desperately hoped to change.

During our visit, we toured the rock quarry where they spent their days doing backbreaking labor, crushing and lifting heavy rocks in the blinding sun. We also saw the tiny cells – including Mr. Kathrada’s cell – where they spent their nights. It was amazing to see Mandela’s cell, a tiny room – about 6 feet wide – where he spent 18 of the 27 years he was in prison. He slept on a thin mat on the floor, and when he stretched out to sleep at night, his toes touched one wall, while his head grazed the other. The walls were two feet thick with no decorations, and he was given a bucket to use as a toilet.

In his first few years on the island, Mandela wasn’t allowed to read the newspaper, listen to the radio, or even have a clock to keep the time. Meals consisted of small rations of porridge – and every other day, he received a tiny piece of meat, but it was mainly gristle. When his mother and son passed away, he couldn’t attend their funerals. And at one point, a prison guard left a news clipping in Mandela’s cell – an article about the government’s mistreatment of his wife – just to taunt him.

Yet despite these conditions, Mandela and his fellow prisoners never lost hope. As Mandela once said, “Prison – far from breaking our spirits – made us more determined to continue with this battle until victory was won.” They did their best to get an education while in prison – they read as many books as they could, and some prisoners even got university degrees through correspondence courses. They vigorously debated philosophy, politics, and the direction of the anti-Apartheid movement. They stood up to mistreatment by the prison guards. And they found ways to communicate in secret, such as stuffing notes inside tennis balls that they would pass along during recreation periods.

So when these prisoners were finally released, their spirits were far from broken. Mandela went on to lead the movement to end Apartheid and set up a new democratic government. He won a Nobel Peace Prize and became South Africa’s first black President. And for me, one of the most amazing parts of his story is this: when he was inaugurated as President, his invited three of his prison guards from Robben Island to join in his inaugural celebration.

So instead of becoming cynical or despondent, or allowing himself to be consumed by bitterness and hatred, Mandela found it in his heart to forgive. And even during all those years imprisoned on Robben Island, he never stopped believing that his country could move forward together as one nation in that same spirit of forgiveness.

While very few of us will ever encounter the kind of discrimination and brutality that Nelson Mandela endured, all of us can learn important lessons from his struggle. We can learn about the importance of standing up for what you believe in, no matter what the cost. We can learn about how, with self-discipline and courage, we can overcome the most unthinkable hardships. And we can learn about the power of forgiveness to turn enemies into friends and help us move forward from a troubled past to a more hopeful future. So I hope that you will read more about President Mandela’s extraordinary life and seek to live up to his example in your own life.

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The First Family Visits the Lime Quarry on Robben Island in South Africa:

Today, we arrived in South Africa, and I couldn’t be more excited, because two years ago, I visited this country for the first time with my mother and daughters, and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

On that visit, I met with young women leaders from across the continent who were serving their countries and their communities – educating young people, providing job training for women, working to combat poverty and violence and disease – often in the face of impossible odds.  I also had the chance to spend time with young people from here in South Africa: I danced with children at a daycare center, visited the University of Cape Town with local high school students, and took part in a children’s soccer clinic at one of the stadiums used in the 2010 World Cup.

I also had the chance to meet President Nelson Mandela at his home in Johannesburg, an experience that I will never forget.  Mandela – or “Madiba” as he’s referred to in South Africa – is truly a giant in world history.  As a young man, he led a movement against Apartheid – the South African government’s policies that discriminated against people of color, forcing them to live in separate neighborhoods and attend separate schools and prohibiting them from even voting in national elections.  For his defiance, Mandela was jailed for 27 years, and his struggle became a source of inspiration for people all around the world.

Mrs. Obama Meets With Former South African President Nelson Mandela
First Lady Michelle Obama meets with former President Nelson Mandela of South Africa at his home in Houghton, South Africa, June 21, 2011. Mrs. Obama viewed items from President Mandela's archives earlier during a tour of the Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. (Official White House Photo by Samantha Appleton)

After he was finally released from prison in 1990, Mandela worked to dismantle the Apartheid state and replace it with a full democracy – and in 1994, four years after he was released from prison, he became the South Africa’s first black President. Today, Mandela is 94 years old. As I mentioned in my first post, he’s currently in the hospital, and he is very much in my thoughts and prayers right now. He has been such a source of hope for so many people for so long, and when I reflect on Mandela’s life and legacy, I think about his courage and determination – enduring nearly three decades in jail without ever giving up on his dream of a more just and equal South Africa. It’s amazing to think about everything he’s seen during his lifetime: the horrors of Apartheid, the quiet desolation of a jail cell, but also the realization of a vibrant South African democracy. I’m so glad that he lived to see the fruits of his struggle and sacrifice – and I’m so glad that he never gave up on his dream of a better country and a better world for future generations. As President Mandela once said, “Our children are the rock on which our future will be built.”

That’s exactly how I feel as well. And that’s why, during my time in South Africa, I’m going to once again reach out to as many young people as I can – and I’m going to try to connect these young people with young people back home in America as well. Because I know that if young people like you all can share your stories and learn from each other’s experiences, then we’ll all be able to keep moving forward, and together, we’ll be able to build upon Nelson Mandela’s legacy for years to come.