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Mandela’s Chicago Visit: A Lasting Impression

Lee Edwards | 12/18/2013, 12:11 p.m.
The impact of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s visit to Chicago in the summer of 1993 still resonates with ...
Former South Africa President Nelson Mandela and U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush during Mandela's 1993 visit to Chicago visit.

The impact of former South African President Nelson Mandela’s visit to Chicago in the summer of 1993 still resonates with citizens here and most certainly with those who met directly with him including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush, and former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley.

While in Chicago, Mandela attended a labor rally, visited City Hall and spoke at Operation PUSH headquarters, 930 E. 50th St.

Nelson Mandela and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., forged a strong friendship when the two met in Chicago for Mandela's one and only visit their.

Nelson Mandela and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., forged a strong friendship when the two met in Chicago for Mandela's one and only visit their.

“I met Mr. Mandela and Winnie at City Hall and when we spoke later at our hotel, he thanked me and recalled hearing about my 1984 convention speech; even from his jail cell, President Mandela was keenly aware of the outside world, and the ebbs and flows of the world,” said Operation PUSH founder and President Rev. Jesse Jackson. “We forged an everlasting friendship. We’ve welcomed him to our home and headquarters in Chicago. Nelson Mandela was a giant of immense and unwavering intellect, courage and moral authority. He changed the course of history.”

Mandela visited Chicago only once after being released from Victor Verster Prison on February 11, 1990.

“One of the highlights of my life was being able to be at the forefront of organizing Mandela’s visit to Chicago after his release from prison,” said Congressman Rush. “Also, years later Mandela invited myself, my wife Carolyn, former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and others to his home in South Africa. We are forever grateful to South Africa for sharing the warmth and glow of their country’s leader with all of us. God bless Nelson Mandela.”

Mandela's two day visit to Chicago on July 6 & 7, 1993 raised $160,000 which went towards politically educating South African voters before the nation’s 1994 election. Former Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley presented Mandela a key to the city, a Chicago Bulls jersey and hat at City Hall.

"Nelson Mandela was without question one of the greatest men who ever lived,” said former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. “[My wife] Maggie and I were blessed with the opportunity to spend a good deal of time with him when he visited Chicago. He was incredibly patient with the very long lines of people wanting just to shake his hand. He greeted them warmly and really listened as they talked no matter how long. He clearly cared deeply about all people… The world has lost a hero to humanity."

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel also publicly announced his condolences to those mourning Mandela saying that society is better off because of icon.

“The thoughts and prayers of the people of Chicago join those of billions of people around the world who mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela and celebrate his life and legacy,” said Emanuel. “The world is sadder now because he has died; but we are comforted knowing that the world is better because he lived. Twenty years after he visited Chicago, his message of peace and hope continues to resonate with the people of this city, as it does for all people of goodwill, and that message will live on.”

After Mandela left Chicago, he would go on to win the 1993 Noble Prize on October 5, 1993 and was later inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President on May 10, 1994.