SACRAMENTO -- California politicians on Thursday mourned the death of Nelson Mandela, the iconic South African leader who helped bring an end to apartheid.
“Nelson Mandela fought heroically for freedom and a truly democratic society," Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement. "His courageous life shows what’s possible when one acts on his convictions.”
Brown said the Capitol's flags would fly at half-staff. His predecessor, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, issued another statement recalling his meeting with Mandela during the Special Olympics in South Africa.
Schwarzenegger accompanied him to Robben Island, where Mandela spent most of his 27-year prison term before becoming the country's first black president.
"He is the definition of serving a cause greater than self," Schwarzenegger said. "President Mandela's life is the closest thing we have to proof of God."
Months after Mandela's release from prison in 1990, he visited the United States and stopped in Oakland and Berkeley. California had played a leading role in the divestiture movement, which used economic sanctions in an attempt to convince the South African government to free Mandela.
During his last stop on his weeklong tour, Mandela spoke to a crowd of more than 60,000 in Oakland.
"We go away even more determined to fight . . . for the total elimination of apartheid, not tomorrow but today," he said.
On Thursday, California Attorney General Kamala Harris issued a statement saying Mandela's "resolve inspired generations of leaders around the world to fight against inequality."
"He is a hero who led with grace and compassion," she said. "His spirit will live on in the hearts and minds of those who continue the fight for justice.”
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) described Mandela as one of the world's "greatest crusaders for justice." He said in a statement that "the fight for equality and justice must go on, here at home and around the world.”
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said in a statement that Mandela's "legacy of achieving justice through peace will not die.”
"Once victory was achieved, he rose to true greatness by the rejection of vengeance; compassion toward his former enemies was the salve that helped heal the horrible wounds of apartheid," Steinberg said.
Senate Republican leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) said in a statement that Mandela's "life's work and achievements will forever serve as a bright example of absolute selflessness and humility in the ongoing struggle for human dignity and freedom."
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