Mandela Receives Honor from U.S. South African, Clinton Trade Warm Praise
Bonabesse, Gaedig, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Retiring South African President Nelson Mandela bid farewell to the United States yesterday after longtime friend President Clinton awarded him the country's highest civilian honor. Greeted in the Capitol's rotunda as "one of the greatest messengers of freedom in our age," Mr. Mandela was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal for heading South Africa's transition from apartheid to democracy. Mr. Mandela was elected in 1994 to lead South Africa's first black majority government.
Mr. Mandela, 80, is the first African to receive the medal, which has been given to such personalities as Mother Teresa and Frank Sinatra.
"Americans as one today, across all the lines that divide us, pay tribute to your struggle, to your achievement and to the inspiration you have given us to do better," Mr. Clinton said before members of Congress and leaders of the black community, in which both leaders enjoy strong support.
Mr. Clinton, who received unconditional personal support from Mr. Mandela in New York on Tuesday, said, "The only gift that is true recompense is to continue his mission and to live by the power of his profound and wonderful example."
Speeches of praise mingled with standing ovations and discreet allusions to the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
"Politics in a free society is a very rough-and-tumble business, involving at times great personal pain," said House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who attended the ceremony.
"But when you contemplate 27 years in prison, when you imagine walking out of that isolation with your heart larger and not smaller - President Mandela, you give every person on the planet a personal witness to how valuable freedom must be, to be worthy of such a life," the speaker said. …