'The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell' for Thursday, December 5th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Thursday show
THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL
December 5, 2013
Guest: Dorian Warren, Charles Ogletree, Chris Bishop
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: 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.
NELSON MANDELA, SOUTH AFRICAN ANTI-APARTHEID ICON: 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.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Nelson Mandela has departed this earth at
the average of 95.
PRES. JACOB ZUMA, SOUTH AFRICA: The founding president has departed.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is a man who the world has been waiting to
see. His first public appearance in nearly three decades.
MANDELA: The basic issue is the demand of one person, one vote.
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS: 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.
MANDELA: I felt very strongly, prison is not the place for anybody.
OBAMA: We will not likely see the likes of Nelson Mandela again, to
make decisions not by hate but by love, never discount the difference that
one person can make, to strive for a future that is worthy of his
MANDELA: It is not the individuals that matter, I am your servant. I
don`t come to you as a leader.
O`DONNELL: Apartness. That is what apartheid means in the Afrikaans
language. Apartness is what the apartheid policy of South Africa`s white
government was trying to achieve, keeping the majority of the population
apart from the minority white population.
To do that, the government would have to deny black people the right
to vote, 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 white people and non-white people,
prohibit black people from going on strike, and force segregation in all
public areas, including buildings and 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, their
employment record, their tax payments, and the record of 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 and the streets 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 conquered 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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZUMA: This is the moment of our deepest sorrow. Our nation has lost
his greatest son.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Shortly after the news of Nelson Mandela`s death reached
the White House, President Obama said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining us now, Dorian Warren, a professor at Columbia
University and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, MSNBC`s Joy Reid,
managing editor for "The Grio", and Eugene Robinson, columnist for "The
Washington Post" and MSNBC contributor.
Eugene, I`d like to stop with you. And to everyone -- I don`t want
you to feel limited by my questions. Use them if they are useful, jumping
off point. But I really want to get your feelings about this man on this
day in whatever way you want to express them.
But, Gene, you met Nelson Mandela. Could you take us back that day
and share with us your feelings today on what turned out to be the last day
of his life?
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: 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 newsmaker, lunch we`d
usually have at "The Washington Post" company board room, but we had to get
a special big room with lots of tables because every top editor, every
editor we 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 implacable opposition to
a system that he knew was evil and was determined to bring down and that
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.
O`DONNELL: Joy Reid, what do you want to make sure that your children
know about Nelson Mandela?
REID: You know, Lawrence, I think with somebody like Nelson Mandela,
it`s tempting to just remember the postcard Mandela, the person who brought
people together after he was freed from captivity but you have to remember
the context in which he lived.
I mean, you had in South Africa sort of the inverse of what you had in
the civil rights movement. You had a native African population that was
being -- that was seven times larger than the ruling class that essentially
turned them and enslaved them in their own country. They were made not
even a second, a third-class citizen, a noncitizen, a nonperson within a
land that they called their ancestral home.
And, you know, the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela tried
to fight apartheid, tried to fight this oppression in various ways,
sometimes through sort of revolutionary struggle, through violent struggle.
They would try nonviolence. They would be met with incredible, intense
violence. The amount of violence that it took to suppress this large
African population was incredible.
And so, what Mandela forgave was something that is almost
indescribable for most people and I think for a lot of African-Americans,
this was the seminal 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, that galvanized a lot of African-
O`DONNELL: Dorian Warren, I asked THE LAST WORD staff today 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
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: They need to know a few things.
That 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.
O`DONNELL: Explain what that was. There was movement for colleges
with endowments, say, that were invested in certain companies to divest any
stocks that were doing business in South Africa. That went on for years.
WARREN: In South Africa. And as Joy said, this was the student
movement of the 1980s. This was the defining student movement of the
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 movement 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 mid-`80s but they never relented. Even with
the veto from President Reagan against economic sanctions, the CBC kept on
and brought their congressional colleagues with them.
So, this is one of the --
O`DONNELL: To the point where they overrode the Reagan veto which
took Republican votes in the Senate.
WARREN: That`s right. 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, and all the leaders of
Congressional Black Caucus 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.
O`DONNELL: Eugene --
ROBINSON: 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 ANC a terrorist group, from Margaret
Thatcher considered the ANC a terrorist group and Nelson Mandela a
terrorist. And this was in the `80s.
ROBINSON: There was a lot of resistance to the idea that the
government should fall much less that this did divestment should take place
REID: Lawrence, you have to realize, because this was in the context
of the Cold War. And one of the insidious things that the apartheid South
African government did is they couched their oppression of Black Africans
in South Africa in terms of the communist struggle, that essentially, the
ANC was riddled through with communists and pro-Cubans, and it`s
interesting that when Nelson Mandela was finally freed and came to the U.S.
and did a six-city tour -- he went to Detroit, he went to Oakland, he
started off in New York, and actually went to the one in New York. It was
just exciting just to see him there.
When he got to Miami, Mandela was actually rejected by the local
government in Miami. Two mayors, the mayors of Miami and Miami-Dade 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 and divestment from South Africa.
O`DONNELL: OK. Dorian, Joy and Eugene, please stay with us. We`re
going to take a little break here.
Coming up, we will look at the presidency of Nelson Mandela and how he
commanded the world`s attention while in prison.
O`DONNELL: Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison on
Robben Island, off South Africa`s coast. Inside the prison was a hardcover
copy of the complete works of William Shakespeare. It was smuggled into
the prison in the 1970s. A prisoner disguised it with colorful cards of
Hindu figures and told guards it was a religious book. That prisoner asked
inmates to identify passages that spoke to them personally.
On December 16, 1977, Nelson Mandela chose this passage from
Shakespeare`s Julius Caesar, "Cowards die many times before their deaths.
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.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANDELA: This is one of the most important moments in the life of our
country. I stand before you filled with deep pride and joy. Pride in the
ordinary, humble people of this country. You have shown such a calm,
patient determination to reclaim this country as your own. And joy that we
can loudly proclaim from the rooftops, free at last.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: 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 Ogletree, a professor of law at Harvard University and
founding executive director at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for
Race and Justice.
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.
CHRIS BISHOP, "FORBES AFRICA" MGR. ED.: Well, certainly, he came from
a royal lineage in his home area, in the eastern cape of South Africa. 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 marry to. He actually
(INAUDIBLE) and went to Johannesburg where he became a security guard,
among other things, in a mine. But he always sort of had that patrician
thing about him. He was an incredible man. And for that reason, he could
get away with other things that other people or politicians -- all of these
memories coming up tonight.
I remember one time, we were (INAUDIBLE) in Malawi, one of the many
meetings for the African Union, and the night that he announced that Mobutu
Sese Seko, the former dictator of Zaire who had a poor human rights record,
as you may know, had died. And he said, oh, it`s always sad to see a
comrade passing even one who caused so many people problems. He caught
himself with a little laugh at the end.
Now, if a leader said that around the world about the death of another
leader, it would have been castigated. But that night, we all smiled and,
you know, he sort of carried off. We knew he didn`t mean harm. And in the
Mandela years, it was always, oh, well, it`s Mandela. We understand what
he really means.
O`DONNELL: Charles Ogletree, 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?
CHARLES OGLETREE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY LAW PROF.: I`m glad you said
that because he was the first democratically elected president of South
Africa, not the first black president. He was that because for the first
time, everybody had the right to vote, including African Africans, and that
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 just South Africa, but Southern Africa
would divest from the system and apartheid would be ended. That was
continued when I went to law school in the `70s and continued into practice
in the `80s when we had thousands of people involved in protest during the
Reagan era because of South Africa. And it was black, white, men, women,
young, old, of every political stripe, and I think that`s important.
So, 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`s birth, not his death but his birth, because he represents, I
think, 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 and blacks and women and
men. And I think that should be part of his legacy.
O`DONNELL: Professor Ogletree, like you he was a lawyer, he was one
of the first black practitioner 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 about that, it seems, in a careful
and prudent way. And was, was very mindful, it seems, of trying to keep
the white minority actively included as participants in that government.
OGLETREE: You know, it was very interesting, Lawrence, 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 bailiffs, everybody white in the court
except him, the defendant, and 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 very good job in South Africa, by
first bringing everybody together. A lot of South African, black South
Africans felt that, you know what? We`ve been victims of apartheid. We
have been oppressed for decades. We`ve had to have all these cards to
carry around. We have been treated with disrespect.
And Nelson Mandela said, it has to stop. It has to stop now. And I`m
telling everybody that 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
He was a genuine person who loved the life of all South Africa, loved
his country, loved all of his people and believed that 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 equal and not separate in order for us to work. And I
think that when we look back he made a big difference, and he will continue
to make a difference when we realize what he did as a lawyer, as a
politician, as a father, a grandfather, and really as a father of a nation.
O`DONNELL: Chris Bishop, Nelson Mandela told one of his biographers,
Rick Stengel, 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
in that transition from apartheid, all the way through to 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 any one else being that first democratically elected
president of South Africa and holding the country together?
BISHOP: You`ve got to understand where this country came from. Just
before the elections, there was an uprising in the northwest of the
country, in Botswana, there was violence, there was shooting, there was
racist violence. Some members of the army were almost ready to stage a
coup. There was terrible violence between the counter freedom party, and
supporters of the ANC.
And as you mentioned there quite right, when Chris Hani, who was one
of loved leaders of the liberation movement, a lot of people wanted to take
to the streets long before the elections. Nelson Mandela went on
television that night -- the sitting president didn`t do anything -- and
said, no, stay home, work together, look forward, look for the best, and do
not commit violence.
When there was hectic violence in (INAUDIBLE) 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 take your knives and
your (INAUDIBLE) is the word he used, which means machetes, and throw them
into the sea. Let`s forget this kind of violence. He simmered down.
And I think a lot of people now 20 years later forget how serious it
was. But he simmered down what could have been an absolute bloodbath in
this country, and 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 many people on this
Earth, never mind political leaders, who could have pulled that off.
O`DONNELL: Charles Ogletree, thank you for joining us tonight.
And Chris Bishop, thank you very much for joining us from South Africa
tonight, thank you.
OGLETREE: My pleasure.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, a look at Nelson Mandela`s time in prison.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON MANDELA, FORMER SOUTH AFRICA PRESIDENT; There are many people
who feel that it`s useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and
nonviolence against the government as it applies is on the savage attacks
on armed defenseless people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: 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 de a statement that President Obama
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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
MANDELA: 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 anal for which I
am prepared to die.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Joining our discussion now, Michael Eric Dyson, MSNBC
political analyst and professor of sociology at Georgetown University and
by phone, NBC News special correspondent Charlayne Hunter-Gault. She`s
lived for many years in South Africa as a journalist and a permanent
resident. She also knew Nelson Mandela personally.
Charlayne, take us back to that period, that very long period when
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, he was unknown to the world when he went
into prison. But he gained his worldwide fame there in prison. How did
CHARLAYNE HUNTER-GAULT, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT (via phone);
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 the prison -- 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, you know, singing in a circle and I walked up
to them and I said, what are you singing? And they said, we`re singing.
We want Mandela to be released. And they named all of the other political
So, somehow, in South Africa the black majority and those 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.
O`DONNELL: Michael Eric Dyson, just generally your reflection on the
life and times of Nelson Mandela.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what an
extraordinary man. A global icon for racial reconciliation and revolution.
And the two seem to be bipolar opposites, but the reality is, is that
Nelson Mandela proved that a revolutionary zeal did not have to be
(INAUDIBLE) in the source of terror and violence of which he and the ANC
What he did was to transform the bitterness and the righteous nation
in 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
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, so to speak. And he also
proved, to quote that, 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 those who believed in
the artificial separation of the racists. So when he emerged, he was clear
in conscience and clear in voice to articulate a vision that could really
go beyond and transcend bitter recrimination and revenge into an ethic of
transformation. And he proved by his presidency that that love ethic and
that real tremendous force for good was the basis of real democracy in
O`DONNELL: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, he said more than once that 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.
HUNTER-GAULT: 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 (INAUDIBLE), who is one of the
icons of peace in the world, talked about the just war and that was what
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.
O`DONNELL: I want to go back to Chris Bishop in Johannesburg, South
Africa. And we`ve got a delay on our satellite communication, but we`ll be
patient with it.
Chris, people in this country and around the world are marveling at
Nelson Mandela`s dignity and his 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?
CHRIS BISHOP, MANAGING EDITOR, FORBES AFRICA: 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, though, I`ve seen him firsthand, you know, I
have 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, I mean, even though some of us were in our 40s
and 50s. That`s just the sort of person he was. And I think that he had
very little bitterness in his heart and he had that great relief that there
is good in everyone. It doesn`t matter how evil someone is, it doesn`t
matter what they have done in life, that there is some form of good and
reconciliation in them. And I think as a quality that I think we could all
O`DONNELL: Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Chris Bishop, and Michael Eric
Dyson, thank you all very much for your invaluable insights tonight. Thank
DYSON: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: Coming up, what Nelson Mandela told Brian Williams nearly
20 years ago right after his election as president of South Africa.
O`DONNELL: The Nelson Mandela foundation and UNICEF created these
schools for Africa initiative in 2004 to promote education in Africa with a
special emphasis on the children least likely to get an education in
Africa, girls, orphans, and children living in extreme poverty.
The schools for Africa initiative has raised more than $164 million
and helped more than 21 million children in 11 African countries. The kids
in need of desks fund that I created with UNICEF is part of this
The K.I.N.D. fund which provides jobs in Malawi manufacturing desks
which then are delivered to classrooms throughout the country has now
raised $5,851,920. That was after your contributions flowed in last night
and today in the amount of $76,404 after I talked about the K.I.N.D. fund
on last night`s show and asked you to help.
Hundreds and thousands of kids in Africa are sitting at desk are for
the first time in their lives thanks to you and your generosity to the
K.I.N.D. fund. The K.I.N.D. fund is also now providing scholarships for
girls in Malawi. You can contributed anytime at our website
lastworddesks.msnbc.com or call 1-800-4UNICEF.
As you have seen in my previous reports, whenever we deliver desks to
schools, the kids always thank us in song.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)
O`DONNELL: The morning after Nelson Mandela`s decisive victory in the
presidential election in 1994, NBC Brian Williams was the first American
journalist to speak with the new president elect. Brian began by asking
president elect Mandela about his predecessor, F.W. de Klerk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANDELA: Our relations with Mr. de Klerk, outside the court. But he
is one of those South Africans I hold in high regard. We have had a shot
differences. We have quarreled. 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.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS ANCHOR: What happens when Nelson
Mandela has to use force against elements of South Africa`s black
community? Are you willing and able to take on the pressures that will
MANDELA: I don`t expect that the government of mass unity 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.
WILLIAMS: 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?
MANDELA: 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
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: Our final thoughts on Nelson Mandela`s legacy when we come
O`DONNELL: 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
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANDELA: Let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete.
Where there is poverty and sickness, including ailments, we`re human beings
that have been oppressed. There is more work to be done. Our work is for
freedom for all. After nearly 90 years of life, it is time for your heads
to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
O`DONNELL: That was Nelson Mandela`s 90th birthday.
We`re back with Dorian Warren, Joy Reid and Eugene Robinson.
Dorian Warren, your final thoughts on Nelson Mandela.
DORIAN WARREN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Lawrence, it was not lost for me
today. We saw a day of strike of fast food workers in over 100 cities.
And Nelson Mandela was a state`s man in a lot of things but he was also an
organizer. He was sentenced to a five-year jail sentence in 1961 for
organizing a three-day national 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 and
freedom in South Africa.
O`DONNELL: Nelson Mandela said it always looks impossible until it is
Joy Reid, your thoughts?
JOY REID, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GRIO/MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You know,
Lawrence, Nelson Mandela changed the culture. You know, my sort of
cultural orientation towards Nelson Mandela was from a, from my father who
is African from the Congo and sort of giving us that sense of struggle of
Black-African on the continent of Africa to get their birthright.
But he also change the culture from pop stars to sports celebrities.
You had the whole world isolate South Africa in agreed to the moral
repugnance of racism in a way you never saw it before. He actually, he and
his movement of the ANC broke the binary code of cold war thinking to get
entire world, almost the entire world, sadly, not the United States
government for a long time, but to agree on the moral repugnance of racism.
That is an incredible achievement.
O`DONNELL: Eugene Robinson.
EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Imagine if there
hadn`t been a Nelson Mandela. It`s just strange kind of factual to think
about. But, you know, South Africa would certainly be a different country.
I think it would be a different world. I think he was such, more than an
icon, such a giant of the 20th century that I think the 21st century simply
would not be the same without Nelson Mandela.
O`DONNELL: I just want to mention something about 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 he 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
realizing all along that they are being directed from behind.
Eugene Robinson, Joy Reid, Dorian Warren, thank you for joining us
WARREN: Thank you, Lawrence.
REID: Thank you, Lawrence.
O`DONNELL: Chris Matthews is up next tonight.
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