Maryland leaders mourn death of Nelson Mandela

People throughout the world are remembering the life of Nelson Mandela today, including local leaders.

The anti-apartheid leader and South Africa's first black president passed away at the age of 95.

"Although South Africa is thousands of miles away from Baltimore, I feel as if we have lost a dear friend, a father figure and the strongest example of dignity the world will ever know," said Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP in a statement.

"President Mandela's life is a textbook on what is possible if one is willing to sacrifice everything for the greater cause of humanity.  Although our selfishness would have wanted him to remain with us forever, Nelson Mandela has more than earned his rest.  My heart is broken into a million pieces today but I truly believe we are better people, we are a better world because Nelson Mandela lived among us," Hill-Aston continued.

Known for gestures of forgiveness, Mandela was jailed for 27 years and emerged with a smile on his face.

"The world has lost one of the greatest and most influential leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries. Nelson Mandela's humility, humanity, determination, and compassion inspired not only a nation, but the entire world.  He committed himself to the cause of peace and justice, and he united his nation around a standard of democracy based on tolerance and inclusion. His life changed history," said U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski extended sympathy to his family and looked at his life as inspiration for the future.

"As we celebrate the life of this incomparable man, we recommit ourselves to the cause of freedom and equality," the Baltimore Democrat said in a statement. "We look ahead at the promise of a brighter future for our children and grandchildren. We have come a long way. Old obstacles have been demolished. The promise of equality and freedom remain within our grasp. But we have a long way to go, and cannot walk the path alone. As Nelson Mandela knew, there is no easy walk to freedom. But he knew we could do it together."

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley shared a similar sentiment.

"Today, my family and I join millions around the world in mourning the loss of one of the greatest heroes our planet has ever known. Nelson Mandela truly embodied what it means to be our brother's keeper. At every turn, he demonstrated resilience in the face of remarkable odds and a fundamental belief in the dignity of every individual. 

"His life is a testament to the power of one person to not only change the world, but bend the arc of history toward justice. Nelson Mandela taught us that freedom is a concept that can't be contained within a prison cell or a continent. It's a power that animated the human spirit around the globe and redeemed the promise of purpose in each and every one of us.

"He leaves us a world that much better than the one he inherited, and a work that must be carried through generations and across the walls that separate us."

***The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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