Today, tens of thousands of people gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa, for the memorial of anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, who passed away last week at the age of 95.
World political and religious leaders, from Cuba's Raul Castro to President Obama, joined the throngs of mourners in the pouring rain to celebrate the legacy of a man who touched the lives of millions of South Africans and inspired countless people around the globe. Despite the weather, attendees were reportedly in high spirits, dancing, blowing vuvuzelas, and singing anti-apartheid anthems. Many proudly brandished posters with the name "Mandiba" — Mandela's traditional clan name — across them.
The attendees gathered at FNB Stadium, the same place where Mandela gave his first speech after 27 years in prison, for the four-hour event. The service opened with the national anthem and continued with a procession of figures — some political, some not — reflecting on Mandela's legacy. Obama even shook hands with Castro, a rare and surprising gesture of goodwill on a day devoted to the remembrance of a man who preached unity.
During his turn at the podium, Obama — like Mandela, his nation's first black president — praised the Nobel laureate's strategies for effecting change: "Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet."