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Illinois Tributes Begin Pouring In For Mandela

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First Democratically Elected President of South Africa Nelson Mandela
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(CBS) – Reaction came swiftly Thursday after the South African government announced the passing of civil-rights icon Nelson Mandela, who died at the age of 95.

Typical of the accolades was this written statement from Gov. Pat Quinn:

“Nelson Mandela once said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.’  Few 20th century figures changed the world as much as Nelson Mandela.”

“Despite 27 years behind bars as a political prisoner, Mandela never lost his optimism, his resolve or his generous heart,” the governor added. “A hero of democracy, he earned the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize, 2002 U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom and eternal gratitude of freedom-loving people everywhere.”

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also expressed sadness at Mandela’s death.

“The world is sadder now because he has died; but we are comforted knowing that the world is better because he lived. Twenty years after he visited Chicago, his message of peace and hope continues to resonate with the people of this city, as it does for all people of goodwill, and that message will live on,” he said.

“In the coming days, from the neighborhoods of Chicago to the streets of Pretoria, from lands that are still healing from the scourge of racial and religious strife to those still struggling to end it, the name Mandela will be on the lips of all those who love and work for peace.”

“Not even death can dim the light Nelson Mandela brought to this world,” U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said in his own statement. “Courage and commitment are rare, but like Abraham Lincoln, Mandela added a caring and forgiving heart to his amazing life story. The world is a better place because of the life he lived and hope he encouraged. I feel honored to have met him.”

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan spent time in South Africa as a teacher during Apartheid.

“Nelson Mandela was still in prison, and black South Africans were still denied the right to vote,” she said in a written statement.

“Today, with his passing, we lost one of the greatest moral leaders of our time. Mandela’s legacy of struggle and leadership will be remembered along with those of Ghandi and King as among the most important toward ending government-sponsored racism throughout the world,” Madigan added.

“One of the highlights of my life was being able to be at the forefront of organizing Mandela’s visit to Chicago after his release from prison. Also, years later Mandela invited myself, my wife Carolyn, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and others to his home in South Africa,” Congressman Bobby Rush of Chicago said. “We are forever grateful to South Africa for sharing the warmth and glow of their country’s leader with all of us. God bless Nelson Mandela.”

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