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South Africa 20 years after Mandela release

Nelson Mandela released from prison 20 years ago.

I remember the day Nelson Mandela was released as clearly as I remember hearing about the murders of John and Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John Lennon and the 9/11 attacks.

But Although this day was an incredibly joyous occasion.

My family and friends had a dinner to celebrate this remarkable man"s life and incredible commitment to exposing the apartheid regime in South Africa the day he was released.

"(CNN) — When Nelson Mandela stepped out of South Africa’s Victor Verster prison a free man 20 years ago Thursday, he was his country’s most famous freedom fighter.

Black South Africans and other opponents of apartheid lined streets to see him when he was released, cheering wildly and waving flags. He was a hero, imprisoned for 27 years for the crime of opposing a government that sought to enforce severe segregation laws with brutality.

Once free, Mandela worked with South Africa’s white president, F.W. de Klerk to end those policies, knocking down the pillars of segregation one at a time. Three years after his release from prison, Mandela and de Klerk shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

The African National Congress — once again legal after being banned in 1961 — elected Mandela as its president, and he won South Africa’s presidential election in a landslide in 1994, the country’s first black president.

"We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free," he said in his inauguration speech. "Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward. We are both humbled and elevated by the honor and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist government."

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