Mandela family friend Andrew Mlangeni said in his opening remarks Mandela "created hope where there was none." "He touched my heart, my soul, my life and those of the millions of South Africans," he added.
"To him, life was all about service to others," said family member Gen. Thanduxolo Mandela. "He mingled with kings, queens and presidents ... At the core, he was a man of the people."
"Let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela: The ultimate symbol of dignity and unwavering dedication to the revolutionary struggle, to freedom and justice , a prophet of unity, peace and reconciliation," Cuban President Raul Castro said through a translator. "As Mandela's life teaches us, only the concerted effort of all nations will empower humanity to respond to the enormous challenges that today threatens its very existence," he said, appealing for a global Mandela-inspired spirit of unity.
"Mr. Mandela was more than one of the greatest pillars of our time," United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his speech at the service. "He was one of our greatest teachers. He taught by example. He sacrificed so much ... for freedom and equality, for democracy and justice."
"He also was a source of inspiration for similar struggles in Brazil and across South America," Brazilian President President Dilma Rousseff said through a translator. "His fight reached way beyond his nation's border and inspired young men and women to fight for independence and social justice."
"Mr. Mandela was the pride of the African people," Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao said through a translator. "He has dedicated his entire life to the development and progress of the African content."
"His life was just an extraordinary journey, from beginning to end, with such an effect, both on his own country, and on the rest of the world," former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said before the service. "So, enjoy today, enjoy and celebrate what he achieved. We may not see his like again."
"I think Madiba would like us to celebrate and not be sad, to have smiles on our faces," said Muhammad Choonara, a 24-year-old university student, said during the memorial. Madiba is Mandela's clan name that most South African use as an endearment when speaking about the former president.
"Mandela was a very humble man and he gave himself to the world. He sacrificed time with his family for us and for me. It is a privilege to be here, it is a humbling experience," said Dipolelo Moshe, 35, who works for a marketing company. She had a South African flag draped over her shoulders and was carrying a big photo of Mandela as she stood in line at the stadium.
"I would not have the life I have today if it was not for him. I'm here to show my gratitude to Madiba. He was jailed so we could have our freedom," said Matlhogonolo Mothoagae, 24, a marketing student, as she lined up to enter the stadium.