On Monday in South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the keynote speaker at a memorial event for Nelson Mandela. Visitors from all across the world traveled to Mandela’s homeland to pay respects to their hero. NY1’s Dean Meminger filed the following report from South Africa.
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu told a crowd gathered to celebrate Nelson Mandela's life that his friend didn't care about people being VIP's, he wanted everyone to be treated like a very special person, or VSP.
The archbishop made everyone shout it out, “I am a VSP!”
In a lively speech at the Nelson Mandela foundation, full of laughter as well as wisdom, the archbishop asked a poignant question.
"What would have happened if Madiba died in prison?" he asked. "We South Africans want to say to you our sisters and brothers in the international community, thank you.”
Mandela's Lawyer George Bizos thanked Tutu and other clergy members for their support during the struggle to end racial injustices for blacks.
South African Folk singer Johnny Clegg performed with the Soweto Gospel Choir.
There were plenty of places for people to pay tribute to the former South African president.
At Nelson Mandela Square, which is located in Sandton City, a part of Johannesburg, there is a huge bronze statue of Mandela that stands at least 20 feet tall.
South Africans and tourists placed flowers at the statue and signed condolence books.
"I wanted him to live to a 105 to tell you the truth,” said Jacqueline Montague from San Diego.
"I would like to thank him where ever he is in the heavens for taking one for the team and softening society's heavy heart,” another visitor said.
The U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, says he feels similarly and knows people here will move forward, keeping Mandela's dream alive.
“The South Africans want to show the world how much love they had for Nelson Mandela and their broad determination to carry forth with his legacy,” Gaspard said.
Ambassador Gaspard says he's always looked up to Mandela and found motivation in the world leader's messages of equality and unity.
"I first met Madiba 24 years ago in New York City shortly after he been released from Robben Island and we helped organize his triumphant arrival in the states and I was a participant then,” Gaspard said.
Although he's only been the ambassador for three months, he has a strong connection to this country and is honored to take part in the celebration of one of his heroes.