Meet the Press   |  December 08, 2013

The personal sacrifice of Nelson Mandela

A group of Meet the Press special guests remember some of the personal sacrifices that Nelson Mandela made to continue supporting the anti-apartheid movement.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> rick stengel, we talk about some of these other choices. in prison -- and you've written about this -- that he would suppre suppress emotion. the incredible story tom was relating oert night with brian on nightly news, hearing about the death of his son. he's in prison. he's refused to go to his funeral. and he also had to live with the fact that his son never forgave him for basically putting his political career and the country in front of his own family.

>> i asked walter susulu, he was his mentor, and i said, walter, did he show any emotion? and he said, obviously i knew he had all this emotion, but he didn't show it. prison was a crucible that steeled him. he was a compassionate man, and prison just made him never show that emotion. i asked him, what is the difference between the man who went in and the man who came out? he said, i came out mature.

>> they bring in some south african journalist to try to demonstrate that, in fact, conditions there were more humane than people thought, and there was an image taken of mandela, and he refuses to speak to reporters. he is the stoic prisoner, always calculating about how he would be viewed on the outside and what his own leadership goals were.

>> that's exactly right. he was deteriorating in 27 years in prison, but he never showed that. he was a man of strength, of resolve, of faith. and he was not a bitter man, as reverend jackson said. he really wanted to make sure that people understood that he's paying the cost of freedom against apartheid, and he paid that cost for 27 years in prison. he died with some of the illnesses that he achieved -- occurred when he was in prison, but the reality is that this great man, 95 years old, left a legacy of struggle and freedom, and we have to follow that.

>> jesse jackson , describe the moment when he's released. what was that like for him?

>> we anticipated he would be set free soon, so i went to meet with mrs. thatcher and britain would not break from that system. america barely broke, so that was a high anticipation on how he would respond. he walked into the room at the back of the hall in cape town and said, freedom fighter , i was calling for god. he had been watching the campaigns on television, very current, very up to date, and was just warm, and in addition to the speech he gave, it must have been that he knew every name in the room and he came out with his feet on the ground. it was one of the biggest moments in his life.

>> tom, you interviewed him right after he had been released. we have a portion of that. i want to show that and have you reflect on it.

>> what did you most want to see in the outside world all those years that you were in prison?

>> a host of things. i can't even count them. the very question of being outside and being able to do what you like, to see the changes that have taken place, the changes that we have seen on television, we have listened to, you know, on the radio. even though they are not the basic changes that we demand, nevertheless, south africa has changed considerably from the time i went to jail, and i wanted to see those changes.

>> everyone agrees that prison did help shape him and mature him, and people who were there with him said the same thing. what was so striking to me when i first saw him, and reverend jackson and i talked about this earlier, the only image we had of him before he was released was that ancient black and white photograph when he was very militant, so when he stepped out, this tall, elegant man, completely composed, knowing the people that were in the room with him, completely at ease when we show up with our television cameras, which he had not had any exposure to, the sound man had one of those big boom microphones with a fuzzy thing over it for wind protection. and i said, you have to understand this is not a weapon, it's a microphone. and he said, i thought they were getting the shotguns out for me again. that's why we were laughing there. it's that quality he brought to the public stage. think about the lives that he had. he was shaped by the royalty of his tribal beginnings, then he became militant. he was a warrior who represented the poor. he goes to prison, comes out, and now he is being celebrated as one of the great leaders of the 20th century . i would hope other leaders, not just in africa, but around the world would take a lesson from all of this.

>> he leveraged his suffering and world a claim to bring down that system. he could have gotten out early on personal assurance. he used the world opinion to demand that apartheid end, that you could have the right to vote, that you could have the right to work. then he led the election. he didn't just leave, circumstances change. the freedom of that change with global opinion.

>> i was in college when he was freed, rick, and you have this sense, especially looking back historically, that he's released and all is well. and that was the opposite of actually what was the case. when chris hani was an anc leader, was murdered, that was a seminole moment. you talked about when then mandela goes to f.w. de klerk and says, you have to stop this or virtually everything will go off the rails.

>> and he went on television in south africa that night rather than de klerk ask showed that he was the father of the nation . as you know, i was with him when his father was murdered. we were in kuno, had just taken an early morning walk, the phone rang and he picked it up and got the news. he was on the phone for about 15 minutes , his expression never changed. he put down the phone and turned to me with a little ex aspiration and said, man, where is our porridge? he was so calm in a crisis and then he rose to that. he said that was when south africa was on the knife edge of a civil war . that was one of the most perilous moments of modern history . and he presided over the fact that