Local leaders and UW professors react to Mandela's passing - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Local leaders and UW professors react to Mandela's passing


MADISON (WKOW)--  Mandela's life and accomplishments touched many people across the world.  His actions influenced and inspired generations of people from politicians to professors.

"We've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this earth," President Barack Obama says during Thursday's press conference.

At 95-years-old and declining health, many admirers of Nelson Mandela had been prepared for the worst, but when the moment came, his passing still came as a shock to many.

"It just took the wind of out me. It was quite a shock," UW professor Heinz Klug says.

Growing up South Africa Klug was no stranger to the political turmoil going on in the country. He was exiled for 11 years, but later came back to the country to work with Mandela after he was released from prison.

"What was extraordinary is you'd think after 27 years in prison that he would not have any track for these people that held him for so long. He understood that the only way for the country to go forward was to reach an agreement with them," Heinz says.

Fellow UW-Madison professor Jim Sweet, an expert on African history, visits South Africa at least twice a year with his wife who was born and raised there. He says the impact Mandela made on the country is still present even today.

"Without Mandela the peace process simply could not have unfolded in the way that it did. His own generosity of spirit toward the people who had been his most brutal oppressors allowed the country to forgive," Sweet says.

While visiting constituents in Fitchburg, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin learned of Mandela's passing. She says the world lost a selfless leader who inspired many, herself included.

"So many people across the globe look to his life, his endurance, his commitment to his country and to Democracy and look to him as hope in their own lives," Baldwin says.

Over the years his message has transcended continents and generations. The story of a prisoner turned president, a countryman who changed the world.

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