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How to Honor Mandela's Legacy

Jamil Dakwar,
Director, ACLU Human Rights Program
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December 10, 2013

Today’s worldwide celebrations of international Human Rights Day coincide with the commemoration of the life and legacy of the late Nelson Mandela – the freedom fighter, political prisoner, African National Congress leader, and first president of post-apartheid South Africa.

More than 90 world leaders, including Barack Obama attended Mandela’s memorial service today, where the president gave a passionate eulogy, telling tens of thousands that Mandela “speaks to what’s best inside us.”

Mandela was a giant in the international human rights movement, which strongly opposed the oppressive apartheid regime and championed the call for his release from prison. For the human rights movement, Mandela will forever be an icon for universal equality, freedom and justice, and the global fight against HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Mandela’s legacy should serve as a guide to leaders as they pay their respects and rightly praise his moral global leadership. This Human Rights Day offers the perfect opportunity to consider how the United States can improve its own human rights record and ensure that “what’s best inside us” extends to every sector of society. Here are a few ways the U.S. government can begin to honor that legacy:

For more, read our updated fact sheet, “What You Should Know About The U.S. And Human Rights“.

These are daunting tasks that require strong political will. To start, our struggle requires a strong domestic human rights movement and public support in favor of fundamental change and structural reforms that live up to Mandela’s ideals and principles. Together, we can build a society and human family that truly honors the courageous life of Nelson Mandela. Together we can ensure that world leaders, including the United States, place human dignity and human rights at the center of their priorities and actions. Only then will Madiba’s legacy truly be honored.

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