Nelson Mandela Turns 85

South African Statesman Remains an Inspiration

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During a visit in 1994, Nelson Mandela revisits the cell at Robben Island where he was held for more than two decades. Louise Gubb/Corbis hide caption

Read Mandela's defiant statement at the 1964 trial where he was sentenced to life in prison.
itoggle caption Louise Gubb/Corbis

Friday marks the 85th birthday of Nelson Mandela, whose own life is a mirror of the struggle and victory against apartheid in South Africa. Mandela is still revered by many in his homeland, and he is considered a role model and inspiration for people across the globe.

Mandela, a leader of the outlawed African National Congress, was sentenced to life in prison for sabotage in 1964. His release from the notorious Robben Island prison in 1990 amid growing international pressure sparked a political and social transformation of South Africa.

"Great leaders live their lives in a way that transforms the world around them, forces attention on problems others want to ignore and take great risks to match the great challenges that are placed in their way," says producer Roy Hurst. "Through their efforts we are all brought to a new understanding."

The power of Mandela's strength of conviction is most evident in a speech he gave in his defense on April 20, 1964, at the opening of his sabotage trial. The lengthy speech ends with these unforgettable lines:

"During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. 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 live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

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