Former President Of Ireland Remembers Nelson Mandela08:38
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Irish President Mary Robinson, left, talks with South African President Nelson Mandela, right, after addressing the national assembly and senators in Cape Town Tuesday March 26 1996. (Guy Tillim/AP)
Irish President Mary Robinson, left, talks with South African President Nelson Mandela, right, after addressing the national assembly and senators in Cape Town Tuesday March 26 1996. (Guy Tillim/AP)

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland, was a friend of former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday at the age 95.

Robinson was a member of a group called "The Elders," which included Mandela and other world leaders, including former American President Jimmy Carter.

Remembering her old friend, Robinson tells Here & Now's Robin Young, "He was the best of us and in marking solemnly his passing, we're talking about the best of us."

Interview Highlights: Mary Robinson

On Mandela being called a "terrorist"

"The interesting thing is that yes, he did take up arms to try to defend his people, because they were desperate. But in prison, in that long period and on reflection, he came to an even better path, which is the path of peace and reconciliation and trying to create a context where people can live together in diversity. He realized the black population was the majority, but they had to live peacefully with those who had formerly treated them very badly. That is why people understand and remember that he forgave his jailers, invited one of his guards to come to his inauguration, that he was constantly reminding South Africans that they were a rainbow nation."

On what Mandela told her and fellow Elders in 1997

"He told us that we should speak freely and independently, we should not fear, we should tackle discrimination and injustice wherever we saw it, but we should also listen. He said, you know when you go to a place, the people know more about their place than you do, so listen, be humble and in particular, reach out to those who are marginalized — women, but also he said young people. And he said it with a particular light in his eyes. He had a great sense of justice, and I think it came from honing his own reflections. He ended up being very much a man of peace."

On the world marking Mandela's death

"Why is it that the world has almost stopped still at the death of one man? Because he represents the values that we know would be so much better for us, and that we would live in greater peace and harmony and development if we would abide by those. It's what he believed in right up to the end, right up to his last conversation with us as Elders. He was championing tackling injustice, tackling discrimination, being humble, being simple. He was always fun, he wasn't preachy. He was great fun to be with."

Guest

This segment aired on December 6, 2013.

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