Nov 20 2013
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) delivered the following remarks at a screening of the film “Mandela: The Long Walk To Freedom” held today at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC:
“Thank you. I’m honored to join two former secretaries of state to host this screening, and to say a few words of appreciation for the subject of the film we’re going to see tonight.
“It is hard not to be in awe of Nelson Mandela. His character is awe-inspiring – his courage, resilience, generosity, selflessness, wisdom. History offers few examples of people who were as devoted or sacrificed more for a cause greater than their self-interest than Nelson Mandela.
“Of all his many exceptional qualities, though, the one that has always impressed me most is his capacity for forgiveness. Imprisoned unjustly for 27 years, he bore no hate for those who took his freedom from him, who denied his dignity.
“In the moment of his triumph, when South Africa became a true democracy, and he became its President, he did not seek or encourage vengeance. He didn’t demand retribution for the years stolen from him and others. He simply went about his work building a better country from the ashes of its tortured past, a country that would honor the sacrifices made for freedom by respecting the dignity of all its citizens.
“To forgive when you have been wronged, when you have suffered unjustly at the hands of others, is a hard thing to do. But it is, as Nelson Mandela knew, the most liberating action a person can take. For nations, too, if they are to build a future greater than their history.
“‘People must learn to hate,’ he said, ‘and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart.’
“On Robben Island, he forged a close friendship with one of his guards. He forgave him as an agent of the government that oppressed him, and saw him as a man, not a color. Their decency toward each other, their respect for each other’s dignity, engendered a mutual regard that ancient hatreds could not prevent. Love, you see, comes more naturally to the human heart than hatred.
“Nelson Mandela brought that same wisdom, that same generous, forgiving spirit to the country he loved, and by his sacrifice and devotion and unassailable dignity opened South Africa to the love he knew it yearned to possess.”