President Obama remembered Nelson Mandela as a ''man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, persistence and faith" at a memorial in South Africa Tuesday, which, despite rainy weather, was attended by tens of thousands, including several Hollywooders.
Bono and Charlize Theron were among the mourners as well as 60 heads of state and other politicos from around the globe, including Michelle Obama, Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton, and George W. and Laura Bush. They listened as the president of the United States told the people of South Africa, "The world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and your hope found expression in his life. And your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy."
"We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,'' noted Obama, who has called Mandela one of his inspirations.
Bono, whose band U2 provided the song "Ordinary Love" for the upcoming movie "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom," had a rich history with the South African activist and former president, who died Thursday after a long illness at the age of 95. In 2002, they worked closely together on the leader's 46664 anti-AIDS initiative. Bono (along with the late Joe Strummer and Dave Stewart) wrote a song about the politico, which was sung at the close of a benefit concert on Robben Island, South Africa, the next year. Bono has also attended several galas for Mandela's foundation.
In a first-person essay that he wrote for the Irish Times, Bono, who attended the memorial with wife Ali Hewson, said, "As an activist I have pretty much been doing what Nelson Mandela tells me since I was a teenager. He has been a forceful presence in my life going back to 1979, when U2 made our first anti-apartheid effort. And he's been a big part of the Irish consciousness even longer than that."
Theron, who was born in South Africa, waved and blew a kiss to the crowd, which was largely jubilant and celebratory. When she first met Mandela in 2004, she memorably burst into tears as she told him, "You inspired me, I love you so much."
In a statement following Mandela's death, she said, "My thoughts and love go out to the Mandela family. Rest in Peace Madiba. You will be missed, but your impact on this world will live forever. … "There will never be words to say what I'm feeling right now. I am saddened to the depths of my soul. Truly."
The steady and sometimes heavy rain didn't seem to dampen the spirits of the mourners at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. People huddled together closely under rain coats and blankets. But they also danced, blew vuvuzela plastic horns, sang songs, and remembered the giant of a man named Mandela.
Meanwhile, Mandela was also remembered from afar. While The Game didn't make the trek to Africa for the memorial, he remembered him in his own way — with a tattoo.
"The finished 'Nelson Mandela' lookin out of the prison bars," the rapper wrote on Monday, along with a pic of his new art. "Done on my side. 7 hour sitting."