(NECN: Alysha Palumbo - Brookline, MA) - From Nelson Mandela’s historic visit to Boston in 1990, just months after being released from 27 years in prison, to his warm reception at Harvard University in 1998 while accepting his special honorary degree, Mandela made an impact on this state that may never be forgotten.
“This man had something about him which just drew you to him, a wonderful smile, a kind of kindness about him which you don’t expect in a revolutionary,” said former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis Thursday night.
Gov. Dukakis and Boston Mayor Ray Flynn organized Mandela’s visit to Boston and both say it was one of the most memorable days of their lives.
“Everybody knew that he was a special man that he was a world leader, but the way his humility exhumed in reaching out to people in the audience, I can still see it today,” said former Mayor Flynn.
Boston University Professor Charles Stith met Mandela when he was U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania in the mid-90’s, and in the years since has become very close with his family.
“While the world has lost an iconic figure that we need to remember the family in our prayers because they’ve lost a father, a grandfather and a great-grandfather,” said Stith.
Stith says with Mandela’s health failing over the past year, his relatives had tried to prepare themselves emotionally for the inevitable.
But after speaking with them Thursday afternoon, he says that didn’t make his passing any easier for them.
“This is particularly impactful, they lost him once to prison and now they lose him again to eternity,” said Stith.
In a pure coincidence, the movie "Madela: Long Walk to Freedom" was playing at the Coolidge Corner Theater in Brookline Thursday night, giving an opportunity for people in the area to celebrate the 95-year-old's life and the legacy he left behind.