South Florida leaders responded Thursday to the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela at age 95, paying tribute to the man who helped end apartheid in his country.
“The world will probably never again see a man of Nelson Mandela’s courage and conviction. He was truly a remarkable and inspirational human being to have endured 27 years as a political prisoner and to respond with forgiveness and reconciliation," Congresswoman Frederica Wilson said in a statement.
The Democrat said Mandela, who became South Africa's first democratically elected president after his release from prison, "inspired a movement for freedom and equality that not only transformed South Africa but also humanity. Nelson Mandela was a man of steel and a symbol of peace. He was a gift from God to this world.”
South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz noted the lifelong activism of Mandela, who fought against apartheid, and ultimately helped end South Africa's system of racial discrimination.
"For his entire life, Nelson Mandela fought for democracy, freedom and equality. The world is a better place because of him," she wrote on Twitter.
“RIP Nelson Mandela, who truly changed the world with his sacrifice...it was an honor to have been in his presence,” she wrote.
University of Miami President Donna Shalala called Mandela "an extraordinary leader."
"His lifelong devotion to democracy and equality was unwavering. He has been a true inspiration to all who fight against oppression and injustice across the world," Shalala said in a statement.
Shalala, a former U.S. secretary of health and human services, received the 2010 Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights for her dedication to advancing access to health care in the U.S., helping disadvantaged people around the world, and her special commitment to ending apartheid and developing democracy in South Africa.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and his wife Jeanette sent their condolences to Mandela's family and to the people of South Africa.
“The world has lost one of history’s most important figures, though Nelson Mandela’s example will live on for generations to come," the Republican senator said in a statement. "Men and women striving for justice and fairness around the world have drawn inspiration from Nelson Mandela, and he showed South Africans and the entire world what the power of forgiveness truly means and can accomplish."
Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, also praised Mandela.
"Nelson Mandela was one of the great pioneers of human rights whose courage inspired people around the world," he wrote on Twitter.