As Rain Pours, Mourners Celebrate Mandela's Legacy

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Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep speaks with NPR's Gregory Warner, who's at the FNB Stadium in Soweto, South Africa, where the memorial service for former President Nelson Mandela is being held. The mood is celebratory as attendees dance and remember Mandela's service to South Africa.


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.


And I'm Renee Montagne. More than 50,000 people attended a rainy and emotional memorial for Nelson Mandela today in Johannesburg. Scores of world leaders and dignitaries were in attendance, including President Barack Obama, who gave a lengthy tribute to the man he credits for inspiring his own journey into politics. NPR's Gregory Warner reports from Johannesburg.


GREGORY WARNER, BYLINE: President Obama received massive cheers from the South African crowd, and additional huzzahs every time he quoted Mr. Mandela in this tribute to the man he called, quote, "the last great liberator of the 20th century." Obama said, quote, "It is tempting to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene." But in his speech, he praised not just Mandela's role as a force of reconciliation and peace, but as a force of resistance.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Perhaps Mandela was right, that he inherited a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness from his father.

WARNER: The sheets of rain that fell throughout the morning tempered the crowds of mourners somewhat as overflow stadiums set up with television screens were mostly empty. But South Africans will have additional chances to say their farewells. Mandela lies in state in Pretoria for three days. He'll be buried on Sunday in a family plot in his home village of Qunu on the eastern Cape. Gregory Warner, NPR News, Johannesburg.

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