United Nations dignitaries and former President Bill Clinton honored Nelson Mandela on his birthday Thursday, praising his life and hoping for his recovery. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.
For Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday, former President Bill Clinton joined with diplomats from around the world to reflect on the African leader's role in world history. Clinton was president when Mandela was elected president of South Africa in 1994.
"Because he has been ill, it's important for us to step up to continue his legacy," Clinton said. "And the legacy is service, but as I said, before service, you have to be inclusive. He didn't just invite his jailers to his inauguration, he put the leaders of all of the parties that kept him in jail for 27 years in the government."
In 2009, the UN declared Mandela's birthday to be Nelson Mandela International Day, a day to serve others.
In honor of that occasion, Andrew Mlangeni traveled from South Africa to New York. Mlangeni was tried and imprisoned with Mandela in 1964 as they fought against apartheid, which gave the white minority control over almost everything in South Africa.
Mlangeni said international pressure and his leader's courage opened the prison doors and South African society.
"We owe this freedom to the idol, Nelson Mandela," Mlangeni said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson said Mandela led by example.
"He made some big choices, and you have a better country today and a model for the world because of Nelson Mandela," Jackson said. "So the whole world bows to his graciousness and his strength of character."
As Mandela remains in the hospital, many wished him a full recovery on the day he marked his 95th birthday.
The UN's South African representative had a message for the world.
"We thank you for all the messages of goodwill and for all your prayers that Nelson Mandela should have a speedy recovery," the representative said.