Meet the Press   |  December 08, 2013

2: A journey through Mandela's legacy

A special group of Meet the Press guests looks at Nelson Mandela's specific struggles and his style of leadership integrity.

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

>>> we're back from new york this morning on "meet the press" talking about the legacy and the lessons of nelson mandela . charles overtree is in boston with us this morning. professor, the modern influence that he has had. you think about president obama who meets him, and we have the pictures of it back in 2005 . he's still a senator, and mandela had been encouraged to meet with this rising star in the democratic party , and this was their only meeting at the four seasons hotel in washington, the president reflecting on the life and times of mandela from the white house on thursday.

>> 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.

>> and it's interesting, he being too young for the civil rights era , reverend jackson, but first to charles ogletree , this was the connection point was apartheid. this was the inspiration nelson mandela , who he could experience realtime, the joy of that deliverance realtime.

>> that's exactly right. i was a student at stanford when i heard the movement about divestment from south africa in 1972 . in 1971 , barack obama was only ten years old so he was very young and never able to appreciate that. what i want to make clear, though, we shouldn't call him militant, we shouldn't call him a terrorist, he's a patriot. he's just like the patriots fighting here many, many centuries ago for equality. and that's what he was. he was a patriot who tried to make sure that his country where he was born, where he controlled would recognize the fact that the majority of people who were african were suppressed by the minority of people who were white, and that has to be changed. he is a patriot who did a great deal in his 27 years in prison and did a great deal as president and continues to have that legacy as a patriot. i am a south african . i am an african, as he said when he got his honorary degree from harvard in 1998 . that became a watershed moment of him recognizing who he was, what he was and who he's speaking for.

>> but to all of you here in new york, it wasn't just that personal grace that allows him to say, i want to make a decision to forgive after he had succeeded. but there is a great deal of political pressure to, quote, unquote, not sell out to the national government at the time which he had to resist and say, look, i've got a long view here, and to whites as well.

>> you have to separate his career from dr. king's career. we were in apartheid in 1965 , which was the right to vote. in almost 30 years we had a lead jump on that right to vote and used that vote to empower allies in south africa . going against our own government's policy, i thought the u.s. partnership and britain with south africa would help prop that system up. yet he came out seeing what his options were, and he knew that for giving a forgiving and redeeming had more value than retaliation and revenge. and even today, while we won the apartheid battle against skin apartheid, the apartheid that remains, the apartheid gaps in poverty and elt cahealth care and education, we're still in it but it's just changed phases.

>> one of the things that has to change, and one of the things professor ogletree said about him being a patriot, it is a much different world then than it is now. the great cold war was on at that time and the south african government was aligned with the united states . and people who were seeing that struggle were seeing the south african government as an ally of the united states and not paying enough attention to the big human rights issues. but the big issue going forward now is president zuma in south africa now and does he get the lessons from the life and leadership of president mandela and other leaders in africa, and not just that continent but around the world that they can take something away from that. there are not going to be a lot of people dancing in the streets because they're mourning the loss of mugabwe, for example, next door, but i hope the lesson this week and the days to come, that people will see the real value of the kind of leadership that was not self-centered and it was not based on division but on unification.

>> i do want to chime in on this. there was a great difference between nelson mandela and dr. king, which i'll get to in one second. our two countries were going on divergent paths. apartheid is not that old. it came in in 1948 with the national party . at the same time, america was moving toward civil rights , toward the -- brown versus the board of education was a few years later. he realized south africa was on the wrong side of history. but he also realized, when he came out, he had to repair the breach. part of the reason he never showed his bitterness, which he did have, was that he knew he had to reconcile white and black for a new south africa . the white's business center was the engine of prosperity for africa. south africa couldn't survive without them, he knew that. and that was one reason he never showed the anger or bitterness.

>> the 1986 decision for apartheid here laid the ground work for the apartheid decision there. we had to fight that same system that dr. king started in '63, mandela got out and there was the right to vote, and they had to get this commerce to declare sanctions very reluctant against our system. but the impetus to free that system came from the civil rights struggle on policy. and to think, david, he got off the terrorist list in 2008 . think about that.

>> he had sort of lingered there.

>> he got off the perish list by george bush at the communists' urging in 2008 .

>> we talk about the mandela legacy and he's often compared, as we said, to dr. king, to ghandi . but those two were killed much earlier in their lives before they could see the fruits of that struggle. mandela stands alone in that regard, doesn't he?

>> in many respects. but let me just say this, i think it makes sense, david. when you think about ghandi , both mandela and king learned from ghandi his whole commitment as a lawyer to non-violence. that became king's legacy in his short 39 years of life, it became nelson man dailydela's legacy in his 95 years of life. king freed a nation and reverend jackson talked about the 1965 civil rights act , the 1968 voting rights act , the '68 fair housing act . the world changed and he changed with it. we have to lift this great man up for what he's done and what we'll do in the 20th century .

>> quick point, rick.

>> he drew a distinction between king and ghandi and himself. what he said to me once was he said for king and ghandi , non-violence was a principal. for me it was only a tactic. a few years later he started his way, which was the military wing for the anc because non-violence wasn't working for the anc.

>> when we last met two years ago, i asked about when they captured him, and i said, explain. he said, well, actually, i think i'm kind of glad i got arrested at that point. i said, why? he said, we've been targeting installations. we were targeting schools. i would rather spend 27 years in prison than have the blood on my hands of children in schools.

>> thank you, professor ogletree. tom, you'll stay with us here. how mandela affected politics in the u.s. our roundtable looks at ending apartheid and how he became the official congress in washington during the efforts to force his release from prison.

>> what we're interested in doing is achieving the political objectives that president tutu has talked about, freeing nelson mandela .

>> our roundtable, tom brokaw , over the next 40 years the