Introduce john walcott, joining us from washington, d.c. tell us more about nelson mandela.
You have interviewed him and spoken with him?
I have, and it was a privilege.
As the president said, it was a privilege for all of the thousands of people who met him.
One of the most remarkable people i have ever met.
I never had a chance to meet ghandi and others, but he is absolutely in that league.
At a time our politicians here in the united states seem to have trouble reaches across the aisle, this man reached across a chasm that seems almost unimaginable and brought the two sides that as a reporter in the 1980's i did not think was possible.
Can you describe your meeting?
Where was it, how long was it, and what was it like to be in the same room?
It was in the 1990's in a visit he made here to washington.
It lasted about an hour as i recall.
There was a small group of us there.
This was a man who simply took control of the room in the way that few others do because he had an inner peace about him, a sense of mission, that you very rarely see in this world.
And how he maintained that through all of his years of imprisonment was remarkable.
I remember thinking how on earth can this man still act and believe this way after all of the things the injustices that were done to him?
It was almost unimaginable.
He really stood out as almost no one else i have ever had the privilege to meet has done, discussing in the most peaceful, reasonable terms, how to heal this breach between black, colored and white in south africa at a time when the whites were prepared for what they called a total onslaught.
If apartheid died, they figured they all be slaughtered.
Instead they found nelson mandela.
John, the president spoke about his first political activities related to protests against apartheid and also recalling the day that nelson mandela was set free from robin island after 27 years as a prisoner.
That was in 1990. what can you tell us about his time in prison?
Did reporters ask him about that?
Reporters did ask him about it, and his answers were as if he had spent some time at his grandmother's house.
He simply accepted what had happened to him, felt it had strengthened his purpose of mission.
The remarkable there was there was no bitterness or anger, which would have been entirely justified.
There was none that.
There was simply a sense that what had been done to him had been done to hundreds and thousands of other are south africans.
Many of thome had been killed.
And his mission in life was to put that behind him and his country.
The degree to which he succeeded in doing that is remarkable, though as my colleague said earlier, enormous problems continue to playing that country looking ahead.
But when you look backward, it is absolutely remarkable that he came out of that experience, 27 years on robin island, with a sense of hope and purpose rather than bitterness.
John walcott, as someone who follows the back and forth in politics, in listening to jameer nelson, did he speak like a politician, or did he have a different kind of voice?
he had a completely unique voice.
The two people that came to mind most thinking about him were ghandi and david betgurian, people for whom their mission was in part moral or even religious.
There was a merger of morality and politics and mission that really you see very, very often.
There was no cynicism, no manipulation.
What you saw was what you got.
You asked him a question, and you got a straight answer.
Sometimes a self-deprecating one.
He had a sense of humor as the president mentioned.
Didn't seem to take himself terribly seriously, which is something we don't always see in politicians.
This was a man with a purpose that dominated everything about him and was larger than even he was, and he was pretty large.
John walcott, the president spoke about nelson mandela as a representative of the idea that one person can make a difference.
Did you find that that also enfused your conversation with him?
There is no question.
He did what -- as i said before, there were a lot of people who covered it much more closely than i did, thought was absolutely impossible, thought the end of apartheid would come in blood.
And the fact that it did not was largely the work of nelson mandela.
It was always the work of prime minister burch ota, his white counterpart.
But without nelson mandela, that would have never happened.
When a giant leaves the earth, there is no one who can fill his shoes.
John walcott, stay with us a moment.
Bloomberg news reporting from washington, d.c. i want to bring in peter cook, our chief washington correspondent.
You have some reactions from the house ma majority and minority leaders?
I do speed.
I wanted to read from the democratic leader of the house.
The ultimate tribute to the triumph of hope.
To his family, friends and loves once, so many mourn his loss at this sad time.
House speaker john boener with a glowing tribute to nelson mandela.
He was an unrelenting voice for democracy and his long walk to freedom showed an enduring faith in god and dignity.
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