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While in town to help commemorate the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High School, former President Bill Clinton took time Sept. 24 to give a lecture at the Clinton Presidential Center about his close relationship with the late Nelson Mandela. The South African anti-apartheid leader is the subject of a new temporary exhibit at the center, "Mandela: The Journey to Ubuntu."

The invitation-only event was preceded by a reception outside the Great Hall. The exhibit is presented by the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

"Mandela: The Journey to Ubuntu" portrays the global icon's journey from his formative years in South Africa, through decades of political imprisonment, to his landmark election as president and how he led his country out of apartheid. Ubuntu means "I am because you are."

"Mandela embodied this philosophy," Clinton said. "He wanted everyone to feel they were a part of the whole with equal treatment."

Clinton described Mandela as a "leader, mentor and a friend," to himself and his daughter, Chelsea. The two leaders often called each other, and though they didn't always agree on the topics, they shared a mutual loyalty and respect. The Clintons traveled many times to South Africa for Mandela's birthdays.

Sharing thoughts on Mandela's time in prison, Bill Clinton once asked Mandela how he was able to forgive his captors when he was released. Mandela replied, "If I hated them, then I'd still be their prisoner." Mandela even invited them to his presidential inauguration.

Much of Mandela's story is told in the exhibition through photographs from the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Visitors can also step into a re-creation of the 8-by-7-foot prison cell where Mandela lived for 18 of his 27 years in captivity. Other artifacts come from the Clinton presidential library collection, Clinton's personal collection (some of which the former president said he has yet to deliver) and items on loan from the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The exhibit runs through Feb. 19.

A companion exhibit, "Art of Africa: One Continent, Limitless Vision" opened in August.

Gallery: Mandela: The Journey to Ubuntu

High Profile on 10/01/2017

Print Headline: Mandela memories

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