PRETORIA, South Africa — Speaking at an official dinner in Pretoria tonight, President Obama offered a moving toast to Nelson Mandela, “a man who has always been the master of his fate, who taught us that we could be the master of ours.”
“Our minds and our hearts are not fully here because a piece of us, a piece of our heart is with a man and a family not far from here,” Obama said, in brief remarks at the formal dinner hosted by President Zuma, not far from where the ailing 94-year-old civil rights icon remains in the hospital.
Obama recited the words Mandela often turned to in his cell in Robben Island prison, “a poem he read to the others in their darkest moments to give them strength,” he said.
He then read aloud William Ernest Henley’s “Invictus”:
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.”
Raising a glass, Obama proposed a toast “to a man who has always been the master of his fate, who taught us that we could be the master of ours.”