Tens of thousands of people packed a stadium in South Africa on Tuesday for an interfaith memorial service celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - It was a one-of-a-kind celebration of a global icon. Rain couldn't keep away the throngs or a parade of world leaders, among them four U.S. presidents. Organizers said that more than 100 sent delegations.
Then, there was the Mandela family, which includes his 18 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.
"This universal show of unity is a true reflection of all that Madiba stood for," said General Thanduxlo Mandela, a family member of Nelson Mandela's.
"Never before has our country celebrated a life as we are doing with that of Madiba today," said South African President Jacob Zuma.
While the spirit of harmony brought together old foes, like President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, the crowd, going off script, repeatedly booed Zuma.
Obama, in his remarks, said that many struggles remain.
"Around the world today, men and women are still in prison for their political beliefs and are still persecuted for what they look like and how they worship and who they love," Obama said. "That is happening today."
Mandela's story was also told. He was hailed as the father of a nation, a liberator, a teacher, even a modern prophet.
"This stadium holds tens of thousands of people, but even an arena as big as African continent could not contain our pain today," said United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
But there was as much joy as sorrow, and talk of a determination to carry on his legacy.
"While I will always fall short of Madiba's example, he makes me want to be a better man," Obama said. "He speaks to what's best inside us."
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