Nelson Mandela's Everlasting Impact on American Culture of Equality

Mandela's fight against inequality inspired nation, resonated with American's painful past.
3:00 | 12/05/13

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Transcript for Nelson Mandela's Everlasting Impact on American Culture of Equality
And we want to show you a picture now. President obama then 19 years old, a college student, protesting apartheid on campus. He said that was the moment that mandela, quote, gave him a sense of what is possible in this world. Sending a jolt of electricity through his homeland but also this nation, america, founded on equality for all. Abc's byron pitts now on what mandela meant to the united states. Reporter: Just four months after he was set free from prison in 1990, nelson mandela set foot in america for the very first time. An 8 city tour starting in new york. It was magical. It was as if malcolm and martin were still alive and the nets had won the world series all in new york all in one day. Mandela spoke at yankee stadium. You now know who I am. I am a yankee! Reporter: For many then as now it wasn't so much his or tear skills but the aur ra of his story that inspired. A story so familiar and inter twined with america, and still so very painful. The anti-apartheid protest of THE 80s CAP VATED A NEW Generation on colleges and communities. Amidst the demonstrations demanding dye vestment in south africa here was the on going violence there in townships. It took the story of one man to help america better understand the struggle of one nation. Mandela reminded the world reconciliation was more powerful than revenge. Forgiveness is a gift to be given. The boldness of his vision empowered america. I said didn't you hate those people once they let you go? He said briefly they did but when I was walking out of my compound I said to myself, they've had you 27 years. If you hate them when you go through that door, they will still have you. Reporter: And the famous. If you proceed through life with just a portion of nelson mandela's humility, you will be a huge success. Reporter: The audacity of mandela's rise also inspired a young politician from illinois. Senator obama visited his cell on robben island when his destiny was still a dream. It was the walk that proceeded it. During his visit to boston 23 years ago I met mr. Mandela ever so briefly. There was time for one question. Mr. Mandela, I asked, what is the one thing in life you know for sure? With that elegant smile he answered, good and evil are always at war. Good men must choose. With defiance and dignity in equal measure, nelson mandela chose and america loved him for it. Byron pitts, abc news, new york. And byron is here right now. What a wonderful story of your encounter with him. He always said that courage isn't the absence of fear but the ability to triumph over it. Exactly right. Mandela often said he was a student of gandhi. Martin luther king, america's civil rights movement. I think it's fair to say that history will show the student became the teacher. America the world, his classroom. Every individual life has a lesson. Yes. Thank you so much, byron.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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