tv The Last Word MSNBC December 5, 2013 7:00pm-8:01pm PST
magnitude. ran rather said he should be considered the greatest leader of the second half of the 21st century, that is how he's viewed around the world. his sature is something that few people have known. as the details emerge, we will bring them to you right here. now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." nelson mandela told his biographer, men come and go. i have come and i will go when my time comes. nelson mandela's time came today. >> i pledge to you with all my strength and ability to live up to your expectations. i am your servant. i don't come to you as a leader.
>> nelson mandela has departed this earth at the average of 95. >> the day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they are guided by their hopes and not by the fears. >> that is a man who the world has been waiting to see. his first public appearance in nearly three decades. >> the basic issue is the demand of one person, one vote. >> nelson mandela has become a kind of philosopher king, reflecting on his years of prison and setting on his vision of what he thinks the future of south africa should be. >> i felt very strongly, prison is not the place for anybody. >> we will not likely see the likes of nelson mandela again, to make decisions not by hate but love, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice. >> it is not the individuals that matter. i am your servant. i don't come to you as a he had
leader. >> apartness. that is what apartheid means in the african language. keeping the majority of the population apart from the minority white population. they would order them to live in separate designated areas, ban the black population from certain jobs, prohibit marriage from white people and nonwhite people, prohibit sex between black and white people. force segregation in all areas of public transportation, deny black people full use of the court system, force black people to carry identification at all times, that included their birth place, tax records and any and all encounters with police. and it would have to create boss, the bureau of state
security which could use indefinite detention without trial. nelson mandela spent his life fighting against apartheid. he led that fight in the villages of south africa and for 27 years managed to continue to lead that fight from a prison cell most of that time spent on a prison on an island off the coast of south africa. after nelson mandela concurred apartheid, had it erased from south african law, he continued to fight apartness because although the apartheid law was gone, apartness remained in south africa. black and white continued to live mostly apart. if the 20th century had an indispensable man, it was nelson mandela. and south africans knew that, which is why they stood in line for so long when they were offered a chance to vote for him for president. he was, as south african president jacob zuma put it
today, the country's greatest son. >> this is the moment of our deepest sorrow. our nation has lost his greatest son. >> shortly after the news of nelson mandela's death reached the white house, president obama said this. >> i am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from nelson mandela's life. my very first political action, the first thing i ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics was a protest against apartheid. i would study his words and his writings. the day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they are guided by their hopes and not by their fears. we will not likely see the likes of nelson mandela again. so it falls to us, as best we
can, to forward the example that he set to make decisions not guided by hate but by love. never discount the difference that one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his sacrifice. for now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that nelson mandela lived. a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice. >> joining us now, a professor from columbia university and joy reid, managing editor and eugene robinson, i'd like to stop with you. to everyone -- i don't want you to feel limited by my questions. use them if they are useful. i want to get your feelings about this man on this day in
whatever way you want to express them. gene, you met nelson mandela. take us back that day and share with us your feelings today on what turned out to be the last day of his life. >> i did meet nelson mandela. it was in 1994. it was an official visit to washington that he made and we invited him to lunch at "the washington post" and he accepted. so i was the foreign editor then and it's the kind of lunch that we'd have at "the washington post" in the company board room but we had to get a special big room with lots of tables because every top editor, any editor that had any claim to be in that room was going to be there and, in fact, today several of us were e-mailing because we're trying to pin down exactly what was that date and refresh our recollections. and everyone had this vivid recollection of the man and it was something more than dazzling charisma. it was more than that smile of
his that was like sunshine when he trained it on you. but there was -- you know, this is what i wrote about him in the column i wrote for tomorrow. there was steel in this man. that's what i hope everyone remembers. that he was so generous and inclusive when he came to power in south africa but he got to that point after decades of implaccable opposition to a system that he knew was evil and was determined to bring down and he in fact did bring down not only by the force of his compassion but force of his will. he was an extraordinary, extraordinary person. and they called him the indispensable man. i think he certainly was. it's a sad day but we should celebrate just a remarkable life. >> joy reid, what do you want to make sure that your children know about nelson mandela? >> you know, lawrence, i think with somebody like nelson
mandela, it's tempting to remember the post card mandela, the person who brought people together after he was freed from captivity but you have to remember the context in which he lived. you had the inverse in the civil rights movement. you had a native african population that was seven times larger than the ruling class that essentially turned them and enslaved them in their own country. they were made a third-class citizen, a noncitizen, a nonperson within a land that they called their ancestoral home and they tried to fight apartheid and oppression in certain ways, sometimes through revolutionary struggle, violent struggle. they would try nonviolence and they would be met with incredible, intense violence. the amount of violence that it took to suppress this large african population was incredible. so what mandela for gave is something that is almost
indescribable for most people and i think for a lot of african-americans, this was the struggle for a lot of campuses that came after the generation of vietnam. so you have the civil rights struggle, which was the 1960s, the big young people's revolution. then you had the fight against vietnam. but for a lot of people, particularly in the 1980s, it was this. it was the fight against apartheid in south africa. >> doreen, i asked the last word staff for a show of fans of how many people personally remember apartheid and very few hands went up. i was at your class of columbia yesterday and i can tell with your students, they don't remember apartheid. they are all too young to remember apartheid. what -- what do columbia students and students everywhere need to know about it? >> they need to know a few things. in some ways, apartheid in south africa and apartheid in the united states of the major democracies, the places that ended up becoming democracies in the world, we're actually the
most similar countries when you think about it, which is why i think for black americans in this country, we have this living memory of apartheid. i came of age in the owe 08s and '90s and i remember conversations in my house with friends and especially in college we had just missed the divestment movement on college campuses. >> explain what that means. there was movements for colleges with endowments invested in certain companies to divest any companies doing business in south africa. and this went on for years. >> this was the student movement of the 1980s. college students successfully -- they won. they successfully got their colleges to divest their investments in any companies that were doing business with south africa. so we have the student divestment on the one hand but let's also give props to the congressional black caucus.
from the early '70s the cbc was offering economic sanctions against south africa. it wasn't successful until the mi mi mid-'80s but they never relented. the cbc kept on and brought the congressional colleagues with them. >> to the point where they overrode the reagan veto. >> that's right. i think we -- this is a moment, as eugene said, that we are sad but we should also honor the man and we should honor our own role and the small part we played as americans and especially black americans and black political leaders. i think reverend jesse jackson, former mayor david dickens who led this fight when it was unpopular when the world was not rising up to say that this is unjust. there were some freedom fighters everywhere, but especially here in the united states. >> eugene --
>> i was going to say, congressman ron dellums of california was an instrumental figure in this and we should not forget how controversial this was and how much resistance there was from the reagan administration which considered the amc a terrorist group, from margaret thatcher considered the amc a terrorist group and nelson mandela a terrorist. and this was in the '80s. >> yeah. >> there was a lot of resistance to the idea that the government should fall much less that this did divestment should take place at all. >> lawrence, you have to remember this was during the cold war. they couched their oppression of black africans in south africa in terms of the kcommunist struggle and it's interesting that when nelson mandela was finally freed and came to the u.s. and did a six-city tour -- i went to the one in new york.
it was just exciting to see him there. when he got to miami, mandela was actually rejected by the local government in miami. two mayors would not receive mandela because he was perceived as being pro castro. so there was this whole sort of cold war fight that was tied up in the south african struggle and it was part of the reason that the reagan administration and a lot of republicans and conservatives opposed the idea of sanctions investment from south africa. >> dorian, eugene, joy, please stay with us. coming up, we'll look at the presidency of nelson mandela and how he commanded the world's attention while in prison. impact wool exports from new zealand, textile production in spain, and the use of medical technology in the u.s.? at t. rowe price, we understand the connections of a complex, global economy. it's just one reason over 70% of our mutual funds beat their 10-year lipper average. t. rowe price. invest with confidence.
guards it was a religious book. that prisoner asked inmates to identify passages that spoke to them personally. nelson mandela chose this passage. "ou wards die many times before their death, the valiant never taste of death but once. nelson mandela later said the passage was one that he repeated when he had to tell someone good-bye. more about nelson mandela's imprisonment is coming up. next, nelson mandela's achievements as president. those smiles that you're seeing are kids that never have seen desks before. thanks to you and contributions by the k.i.n.d. fund. people don't have to think about where their electricity comes from. they flip the switch-- and the light comes on.
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this is one of the most important moments in the life of our country. i stand before you with great pride and joy, pride of the people of this country. you are shown such a calm and patient determination to reclaim this country as your own. enjoy that you can loudly proclaim from the rooftops free at last. [ applause ] >> that was nelson mandela giving his presidential victory speech on may 2nd, 1994. joining me now, chris bishop who knew nelson mandela personally and made two documentaries about mandela. charles, professor of law at harvard university.
chris bishop, there's a line in "the new york times" about nelson mandela from a quote from one of his prison cell block mates who says the first thing to remember about mandela is that he came from a royal family. that always gave him a strength. tell us about nelson mandela's upbringing and how that affected his bearing as he moved through his difficult life. >> well, certainly he came from a royal lineage in his home area. he was brought up to be a chief. his father was a chief. he was -- had a very high upbringing, one might say. it was only when he became a young man that it was decided
that he was going to marry someone that he didn't want to. he went to johannesburg where he became a security guard, among other things, in a mine. but he always sort of had that patrition thing among him and for that reason he could get away with other things that politicians -- all of these memories coming up tonight. i remember one time we were in malawi, one of the many meetings for the african union and the night that he announced that the former dictator who had a poor human rights record had died, it's always sad to see a comrade passing even someone who caused so many people problems. he caught himself with a little laugh at the end. if a leader said that around the world about another leader they would have been castigated.
we knew he didn't mean harm. it's mandela. we understand what he really means. >> charles, in 1952, he actually gave a talk at a dinner where he predicted in 1952 that he, nelson mandela, would be the first elected president of a free and democratic south africa and that actually came to happen. how would you judge his handling the presidency as that first democratically elected president in south african history? >> well, i'm glad you said that because he was the first democratically elected president of south africa, not the first black president. and he was that because for the first time everybody had a right to vote, including africans, and it made a big difference. i was born in 1952, so i have no memory of this speech in 1952 but i do remember as a student at stanford being involved in the divestment movement, trying to make sure that not just south
africa but southern africa would divest from this system and apartheid would be ended. that was continued when i went to law school in the '70s and continued when i went to practice in the '80s when we had thousands of people involved in protests during the reagan era because of south africa and it was black, white, men, women, young, old of every political stripe. i think that's important. his legacy is something that will have to last forever and i hope that we won't just simply honor him when his birthday comes up but we should talk about a global -- a global remembrance of this day of nelson mandela, not his birth. because he's an outstanding person who gave a lot of himself. 27 years in jail, always subject to the apartheid laws but a man who came out with no bitterness, no fear, no anger, no hostility,
but someone who wanted to make south africa open for all people, including whites, blacks, women, and men. >> professor, like you, he was a lawyer. he was one of the first black practitioners in south africa. and he had a great legal challenge in taking over the presidency. first of all, laws had to be changed in order to even allow that kind of vote to occur and then there was a lot to consider by way of changing south african law when he became president. he went above that, it seems, in a careful and prudent way and was very mindful, it seems, of trying to keep the white minority actively included in participants of that government. >> you know, it's very interesting when you think about that. i think about his legal career not so much when he was president of south africa but when he was sentenced to 27
years in prison and he was then talking about the fact that he as a lawyer was being judged by a white judge, a white bailiff, everybody is white and of course him the defendant. he gave, i think, a magnificent speech about he's willing to die, if necessary, to promote these issues and as a president i think he did a good job of first bringing everybody together. black south africans felt that, you know what, we have been victims of apartheid. we have been oppressed for decades. we've had to carry these cards around. we have been treated with disrespect and nelson mandela said it has to stop. it has to stop now. south africa is one nation of all people, not a black and a white nation. it's one nation for all. and he showed that in his cabinet. he showed that in his love for the teams that played all white males playing rugby and he
became a rugby fan. he was a genuine person who loved the life of all south africa. loved his country, loved all of his people and believed we could not be separate and be strong. he believed in the idea that separate and equal did not work in south africa. it would not work anywhere else. we had to be set -- we had to be equal and not separate in order for us to work and when we look back we made a big difference and he'll continue to make a difference when we realize what he did as a warrior, as a politician, as a father, a grandfather, and really as a father of a nation. >> chris bishop, nelson mandela told one of his biographers that he doesn't think he's ever fully told the story about just how close south africa came to chaos and civil war on multiple fronts this that transition from apa apartheid all the way through a democratically elected president. there was an assassination of
another black leader at that time where things were getting very tense and close to coming apart. can you imagine anyone else being that first democratically elected president of south africa and holding the country together? >> you've got to understand where this country came from. just before the elections there was an uprising in the northwest of the country. there was violence, shooting, racist, violence. some members of the army were ready to almost stage a coup. there was terrible violence and as you mention, when chris harney, one of the beloved leaders of the liberation movement, when he was assassinated, a lot of people wanted to take to the streets. nelson mandela went on
television that night. the sitting president didn't do anything. and said to people, no. stay at home. work together. look forward. look for the best. and do not commit violence. when there was hectic violence between political factions, mandela went and spoke to them at the risk of his own life. he spoke to thousands and thousands of activists and said throw them into the sea. let's forget this kind of violence. he simmered down. people 20 years now forget how serious it was. but he simmered down what could have been an absolute blood bath in this country and it's safe to say, thank heavens it is a relatively peaceful country now and people are getting along. so i think that i don't know -- i'm not sure if many people on this earth, never mind political leaders, who could have pulled that off. >> charles, thanks for joining us tonight.
chris bishop, thanks very much for joining us from south africa tonight. thank you. >> my pleasure into coming up, a look at nelson mandela's time in prison. i love having a free checked bag with my united mileageplus explorer card. i've saved $75 in checked bag fees. [ delavane ] priority boarding is really important to us. you can just get on the plane and relax. [ julian ] having a card that doesn't charge you foreign transaction fees saves me a ton of money. [ delavane ] we can go to any country and spend money the way we would in the u.s. when i spend money on this card, i can see brazil in my future.
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>> that was nelson mandela in 1961. two years later he was imprisoned where he remained for 27 years. again, on the day he was released from prison nelson mandela made a statement that president obama quoted tonight. >> i have fought against white domination and i have fought against black domination. i have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together. >> in harmony and with equal opportunity. it is an idea which i hope to live for and to achieve but if need be, it is an ideal for which i am prepared to die.
>> joining our discussion now, michael eric dyson, msnbc political analyst and professor at georgetown university and by phone, charlayne hunter-gault. she's lived many years in south africa and she knew nelson mandela personally. take us back to the time when he was imprisoned and was unknown but he gained his worldwide fame there in prison. how did that happen? >> well, i think that his movement never stopped putting him out there, putting his views and beliefs out there and when i went in 1995, i went to -- i couldn't get into the prison but i went and looked over to where he was.
i went to a little township, you know, the blacks were separated and segregated many miles from the main town and i went to one of them and i saw these kids singing in a circle and i walked up to them and i said, what are you singing? and they said, oh, we're singing. we want nelson mandela to be released and they named all of the other political prisoners. so somehow in south africa the black majority and those who were their comrades, black and white, kept his name alive so that the young people were still singing songs of freedom and wanting them to be released. >> michael eric dyson, generally your thoughts on nelson mandela. >> a global icon for reconciliation and revolution and the two seem to be bipolar
opposites but a revolutionary zeal did not have to be in the source of violence in which he and the amc were accused. what he did was transform the fury of african people who were black against a minority of people who were imposing their will and proved that we could rest our country. that is, south africa, from the jaws of those who would tear it up and tear it apart. and he loved south africa back into a position of moral authority. he for gave white south africans into a better future and by doing so he proved that the pin is mightier than the sword but he also proved that a life of extraordinary sacrifice would, in the long run, defeat the forces that had been running free while he was in jail. isn't it interesting? he proved, by his own noble
sacrifice, that the people who were really imprisoned, were those who believed in apartheid and in the artificial separation of the racists. so when he emerged, he was clear in conscience and voice to really go beyond and transcend bitter rediscrimination and he proved by his presidency that that love ethic and tremendous force for good was the basis of real democracy in south africa. >> charlayne hunter-gault, he said he didn't make moral choices, necessarily, about what tactics to use, about whether to use violence or not. he was interested in the strategy that would work and he was very impatient with some people who advocated violence specifically on the grounds that it would not work. >> well, you know, at a certain
point he realized that the government was not listening and, you know, although there were many in the world who condemned violence, archbishop, one of the icons of peace in the world, talked about the just war and that was ma mandela and his comrades launched. it was a just war. and i have to say that, you know, even as mandela was in prison and so many people, you know, were unable to see him, there was a movement that reported his goal of a free south africa that was launched around the world and so it was the world's activism, including those in the united states and elsewhere who carried mandela's message even though he was in prison and worked hard, including the sanctions and other things that put pressure on the south africa minority
regime to listen to him, to listen to what he had to say. and so those movements around the world carrying his message enabled him ultimately himself to begin negotiations with the white minority regime, even when he was in prison to end the apartheid. he was meeting with the leaders of the white minority regime organizing ways of freedom for his people and when they asked him to forgive violence in order for himself to be -- and his colleagues and comrades to be released from prison he said, no, this is unconditional and that is where the moral authority of him and his position came into being and was ultimately victorious. >> i want to go back to chris bishop in johannesburg, south africa. we've got a delay on our satellite communication but we'll be patient with it.
people around the world are marveling at nelson mandela's dignity and grace under this tremendous pressure over decades in south africa, including during his imprisonment. you've studied the man now for many years. to what do you attribute the source of his ability to carry himself in that way and to not indulge in recriminations when he had that opportunity? >> i think that's the sort of man he was. he was a very tall, imposing man. he was very dignified man. i saw him get angry quite a few times. he was a very tough man but there was no way that you could ever really say -- and people knew for years that he was a cheat man ever. he didn't like the trappings of power. he didn't like the glitter that
went with office. many people still believe he didn't want to be president, even. and yet he carried the office with such dignity. but on the other hand, i've seen him be unhappy with journalists and tongue lash him in a way that perhaps less liberal leaders would do so. but i think that he had this tremendous spirit. he always had time for children. he would talk to older people. he always used to come into press conferences to us and say hello to the young people even though some of us were in our 40s and 50s. that's just the sort of person he was and he had very little bitterness in his heart and it doesn't matter how evil someone is, that there is some form of good and reconciliation in them and i think as a quality we could all use. >> charlayne hunter-gault and
chris bishop, thank you. coming up, what nelson mandela told brian williams nearly 20 years ago right after his election as president of south africa. we're aig. and we're here. to help secure retirements and protect financial futures. to help communities recover and rebuild. for companies going from garage to global. on the ground, in the air, even into space. we repaid every dollar america lent us. and gave america back a profit. we're here to keep our promises. to help you realize a better tomorrow. from the families of aig, happy holidays.
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>> he is one of those that i hold in high regard. we have had differences. we have quarrelled. we have set cruel things against each other. but at the end of the day, we're able to shake hands and to think of the interest of south africa and he has had an experience which i have not had. and if my organization comes out with a majority in this elections, i will have to depend very much on his support, his experience. >> what happens when nelson mandela has to use force against elements of south africa's clblk community? are you willing and able to take on the pressures that will take
place? >> i don't expect that the government has well as succeeding governments would rely as a solution on force. we depend on the people. we depend on persuasion and i can't think of any period where we will have to use force. >> let's talk about this word expectation. it has become almost an expression, something that you hear throughout your country. and that is that the blacks expect a new car in the new home after the election and the whites expect to lose everything they have, the status quo. how do you control the game of expectations on both sides? >> the fear and the concern by the whites and other minority is genuine and it's up to us to
address them but you must understand that in order to deliver the goods in that regard, it cannot be done overnight. it is going to take a year, two years, even as much as five years. the important thing is that after the results have been announced, the process of mobilizing the country and its resources to address these problems will start. >> our final thoughts on nelson mandela's legacy when we come back. it made the difference between hearing about my daughter's gym meet, and being there. yeah! nailed it! i got back to doing what i love. that's my daughter. hi sweetie! gotta dial it back a little bit on the rock climbing. one weekend can make all the difference. unlike the bargain brand, depend gives you the confidence of new fit-flex® protection. it's a smooth and comfortable fit with more lycra strands. it's our best protection.
it's a few minutes before 6:00 a.m. in south africa and that is the crowd gathered outside of nelson mandela's house. they have been there all night. that's a live shot outside of the house. we'll be back in just a minute with the final thoughts on nelson mandela. a subaru... ...are the hands that do good things for the whole community:
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it is time for your heads to lift the burdens. it is in your hands now. >> that was nelson mandela's 90th birthday. we're back with dorian and joy reid and eugene robinson. your final thoughts, dorian. >> we saw a strike of fast food workers in over 100 cities. nelson mandela was an organizer. he was sentenced to a five-year jail sentence in 1961 for organizing a three-day strike of workers. this was before he got the life sentence. and i just want to remind viewers that it took thousands, if not millions of ordinary people to do extraordinary things in south africa to lead to freedom. so we should absolutely honor nelson mandela and never forget his legacy but also recognize
the names of folks that we'll never know who he helped to organize to stand up, to lead to liberation in south africa. >> nelson mandela said it always looks impossible until it is done. joy reid, your thoughts? >> nelson mandela changed the culture. my sort of cultural orientation from noecelson mandela was from father in the congo on the african of africa to get their birthright and from pop stars to sports celebrities, you had the whole world in the way you never saw it before. he and his movement broke the binary code of cold war thinking to get almost the entire world -- sadly, not the united states government for a long time, but to agree on the moral repug nans. >> imagine if there hadn't been
a nelson mandela. it's strange to think about. south africa would certainly be a different country. i think it would be a different world. he was such a giant of the 20th century that i think the 21st century simply would not be the same without nelson mandela. >> the way he used all of the different layers of his experience, beginning with growing up in a little village on a dirt floor, he used his law school experience, his educated man experience and there's a wonderful quote in his au autobiography where he talks about consensus building and used his experience watching the tribal council and watching the tribal chiefs. he said the chief would work like a shepherd. he stays behind the flock letting the most nimble go out ahead whereupon the others fall not realizing all along that
they are being directed from behind. eugene robinson, joy reid, dorian, thank you for joining us. chris matthews is up next tonight. tonight, we bring to you my interview with president barack obama. this is the historic passing of his personal hero, nelson mandela, an event that msnbc will be covering for the rest of the evening. i have covered two great events in my career. one was the fall of the berlin wall in 1989 and the other was the election in south africa five years later. i was there when the black majority voted by the millions, stretching from one horizon so the other. i saw firsthand the devotion to democracy and the great legacy of the man who died today. president obama paid tribute to nelson mandela today. through his fierce dignity, an unbending will to