Nelson Mandela is a towering figure. He embodies the highest values of humanity, and of the United Nations. His life, his strength and his decency are an example to us all. He fought his oppressors for years. And then, he forgave them.
I am lucky enough to have met Nelson Mandela. Like so many others, I was struck by his charisma and charm. But I was most impressed by his humility. When I tried to thank him for his life's work, he replied: "It was not me." He preferred to talk about what other people had done in the struggle for human rights and dignity.
That is just one reason why Nelson Mandela is such an inspiration to millions. He was not backed by money or power. As he constantly reminds us, he is an ordinary man. But he has achieved extraordinary things.
Nelson Mandela's accomplishments came at great personal cost to himself and his family. His sacrifice not only served the people of his own nation, South Africa, but made the world a better place for all people, everywhere. Today, on the first Nelson Mandela International Day, we thank him for everything he has done for freedom, for justice and for democracy.
He showed the way. He changed the world. We are profoundly grateful.