Mandela 2 Johannesburg, on 13 May 2008. (File)

Nelson Mandela, 95, died on Dec. 5. His life and death has impacted many. Below are just a few statements from local and national leaders about the legendary leader. 

Gov. Pat Quinn

  • Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Few 20th Century figures changed the world as much as Nelson Mandela. Despite 27 years behind bars as a political prisoner, Mandela never lost his optimism, his resolve or his generous heart. A hero of democracy, he earned the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, 2002 U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and eternal gratitude of freedom-loving people everywhere. As President, Mandela guided his nation out of the darkness of apartheid. He provided free healthcare for children and opposed the death penalty. He could have been content after his presidency to enjoy much-deserved time with friends and family. Instead, he continued crusading for better schools, AIDS awareness and democracy across Africa. We join the people of South Africa and the world in mourning this great loss. The vision and spirit of Nelson Mandela live on.

Ira Acree, pastor of Greater St. John Bible Church

  • Long live the labor of love and rich legacy of a true trailblazer. President Nelson Mandela used social compassion throughout his life to confront the cruel and vicious atrocities of injustice. May God comfort his family during this time of mourning, and may he forever be remembered across the globe as a true leader, one who sacrificed it all for the freedom of his people.

 Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president

  • Nelson Mandela was a personal hero — not only for me, but for countless individuals. He taught us that nothing worth fighting for is easily attained. His sacrifice in the pursuit of democratic change has been felt the world over. He also reminded us that we should not canonize our heroes. He was a man of flesh and blood who led a disciplined, principled life devoted to justice. He maintained his dignity throughout his quest for freedom. His humility and spirit, his persistence and courage, have inspired millions. We lost a tremendous man today (Dec. 5), but his legacy will continue to shape generations.”

Lisa Madigan, Illinois Attorney General

  • Twenty-five years ago, amid the struggle against Apartheid, I volunteered as a high school teacher in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was still in prison and black South Africans were still denied the right to vote. I taught English, math, history and science to my students, but I knew my true work was in educating the next generation of black South African women to be ready to lead in a new South Africa. Mandela’s unrelenting strength and courage made this dream a reality for my students and their families. Today, with his passing, we lost one of the greatest moral leaders of our time. Mandela’s legacy of struggle and leadership will be remembered along with those of Gandhi and King as among the most important toward ending government-sponsored racism throughout the world. My heart goes out to my South African friends and all those around the world who helped bring an end to Apartheid. May we all continue to find inspiration for fighting injustice from Mandela’s dedication to freedom, equality, and forgiveness.”

Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago

  • Nelson Mandela will be remembered as a man whose personal integrity and the circumstances of life molded into a prophetic international figure. For many years, in prison and out of prison, he resisted apartheid in South Africa. As a catalyst for reconciliation in South Africa, he became a model for how all of us can respond in the face of grave injustice.

Andrea L. Zopp, president and CEO of Chicago Urban League 

  • The Chicago Urban League joins everyone who works for peace, justice and equality around the world in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela, the architect of modern South African. Nelson Mandela’s iconic legacy of activism brought him to the front lines of the struggle against apartheid. His legendary endurance and discipline helped him survive 27 years of unjust imprisonment without hate for his oppressors. And his distinct ability to build bridges of understanding and healing between those of different races led to him becoming the first black president of South Africa. Nelson Mandela’s life and persistence will forever serve as an inspiration to everyone; an inspiration to lead lives that provide hope and opportunity to the disenfranchised. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Nelson Mandela, as well as to the people of South Africa who adored him. We honor him and will continue to be inspired by his life of service to humanity.

Bobby Rush, U.S. Rep. for Illinois 1st Congressional District

  • The world is saddened by the demise of one of God’s greatest creations, a world leader who was able to command the respect of all of us who occupy mother earth. Nelson Mandela rose from humble beginnings to the pinnacle of love and respect throughout the world. His life is a testimony to the power of love for humankind. Carolyn and my condolences are extended to the Mandela family and to the people of South Africa. One of the highlights of my life was being able to be at the forefront of organizing Mandela’s visit to Chicago after his release from prison. Also, years later Mandela invited myself, my wife Carolyn, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and others to his home in South Africa. We are forever grateful to South Africa for sharing the warmth of their country’s leader with all of us. God bless Nelson Mandela.

Bishop T.D. Jakes 

  • I am deeply saddened to have lost such an enduring symbol of freedom and liberty. Nelson Mandela was an elder statesman who embodied the very essence of a servant/leader. History cannot contain the lasting impact of such an extraordinary life. Rather, his exceptionalism will live in the hearts and minds of those of us who were fortunate enough to have witnessed his greatness. There are few words capable of encapsulating the measure of such a masterful life, except to impart this departing dispatch: “Well done Madiba, well done!”

Malcolm and Stacia Crawford, owners of Sankofa Cultural Arts Center

  • As the world paused to remember Nelson Mandela last Thursday night, residents came together to celebrate the life of the man known for being a champion for freedom. More than 125 people gathered at the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center for a pre-Kwanzaa show on Dec. 5, featuring West Side students of After School Matters programs. Just hours after learning of his passing, the show’s organizers decided to dedicate the show to him. The show featured African drumming and songs, poetry, tap dancing and improvisational skits. We wanted to use the occasion to share some of Mandela’s remarkable works with a younger generation. When we opened the center in 2007, we named our performing arts space the Nelson Mandela Hall, because his courage inspired people all over the world. We wanted this venue to be a place of inspiration, education, and empowerment, so what name was more fitting? (Stacia) had the honor of meeting Nelson Mandela twice, once in 1990 and again in 2000. He spoke with a soft and gentle voice, yet his presence was larger than life. (Stacia) participated in anti-apartheid protests in Philadelphia while a student at the University of Pennsylvania, well aware of the struggles of the blacks in South Africa. (Stacia) remembers watching the live television coverage with her grandmother as a 71-year-old Mandela walked through the prison doors. He was the epitome of strength, courage, and an unrelenting spirit. We plan to hold a more fitting tribute to Mandela, which will include a movie screening and panel discussion about his life and his legacy.