Nelson Mandela: South African Prisoner, Liberator and Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela: South African Prisoner, Liberator and Peace Prize Winner, Dies at 95

Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa and served as his country’s first black President, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday night at the age of 95.

Mr. Mandela’s quest for freedom took him from the court of tribal royalty, to the liberation underground, to a prison rock quarry, to the presidential suite of Africa’s richest country. When his first term in office was up, he declined a second term and cheerfully handed over power to an elected successor, the country still gnawed by crime, poverty, corruption and disease, but a democracy, respected in the world and remarkably at peace.

Mr. Mandela overcame a personal mistrust bordering on loathing to share both power and a Nobel Peace Prize with the white president who preceded him, F. W. de Klerk. And as president, from 1994 to 1999, he devoted much energy to moderating the bitterness of his black electorate and to reassuring whites with fears of vengeance. When the question was put to Mr. Mandela in an interview in 2007: “After such barbarous torment, how do you keep hatred in check?” His answer was almost dismissive: “Hating clouds the mind. It gets in the way of strategy. Leaders cannot afford to hate.

Read more about Nelson Mandela in the New York Times here.

Nelson Mandela Dies at 95: South Africa’s First Black President Remembered

The World Celebrated Nelson Mandela’s 90th Birthday

Mandela’s Campaign Against South African Apartheid

On August 5th, 1962, Nelson Mandela was arrested after living in underground hiding for seventeen months, and was initially imprisoned in the Johannesburg Fort. He was imprisoned after being charged with involvement in planning armed action and a conspiracy to help other countries invade South Africa. The arrest was made possible because the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) tipped off South African security police as to Mandela’s whereabouts and disguise. Mandela was later imprisoned on Robben Island, where he remained for the next eighteen of his twenty-seven years in prison.

In March 1982, Mandela was transferred from Robben Island to Pollsmoor Prison, in part to enable discreet contact between him and the South African government. In 1990, State President F.W. de Klerk reversed the ban on anti-apartheid organizations, and announced that Mandela would shortly be released from prison. Mandela was released from Victor Verster Prison in Paarl on February 11th, 1990, an event that was broadcast live all over the world.

South Africa’s first multi-racial elections were held on April 27th, 1994. The African National Congress won 62% of the votes in the election, and Mandela, as leader of the ANC, was inaugurated on May 10th, 1994, as the country’s first Black President, with the National Party’s de Klerk as his first deputy. As President from 1994 until 1999, Mandela presided over the transition from minority rule and apartheid, winning international respect for his advocacy of national and international reconciliation.

Mandela’s leadership was recognized when he was awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize.

Mandela’s London Arrival for the Birthday Celebrations

Nelson Mandela arrived in London on Monday, June 23rd, 2008, for a week of events to celebrate his 90th birthday. Mandela met with Queen Elizabeth II, as well as with a number of other high-profile celebrities who included Gordon Brown, the former U.S. president Bill Clinton and the talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. The outdoor concert in honor of the former South African President was scheduled to take place at Hyde Park, London, on Friday, June 29th, with performers including Amy Winehouse, Josh Groban, Annie Lennox, Leona Lewis, Queen and the Soweto Gospel Choir.

Celebrating Mandela’s 90th Birthday: The 90th Birthday Concert

40,000 Fans Pay Tribute to Mandela

Will Smith charmed the huge 90th Birthday Concert crowd, and Amy Winehouse wowed them with her performance. However, Nelson Mandela proved to be the biggest star of all at the concert Friday in honor of the South African statesman’s 90th birthday.

Acts including Queen, Razorlight, Leona Lewis and a host of African stars joined more than 40,000 music fans for the outdoor show in London’s Hyde Park. Josh Groban and the Soweto Gospel Choir also performed at the event, which came 20 years after a 70th birthday concert for an absent Mandela at London’s Wembley Stadium. Mandela, an anti-apartheid activist, had at that point been imprisoned in South Africa for 25 years. He told Friday’s crowd that that concert made a big difference in his eventual release and the fight against the racist system, which was dismantled in the early 1990s.

Your voices carried across the water to inspire us in our prison cells far away,” said Mandela, who received the biggest cheers of the night. “We are honored to be back in London for this wonderful celebration.”

But even as we celebrate, let us remind ourselves that our work is far from complete.”

Amy Winehouse Performs: Mandela’s 90th Birthday Concert

Josh Groban Performs at the Birthday Concert

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The Obama Inaugural Concert: Josh Groban Sings with the D. C. Gay Men’s Chorus

Obama Inaugural Concert: Josh Groban Sings with The Washington D. C. Gay Men’s Chorus

America’s first African-American president was serenaded by a large number of world-class performers at the nationally televised concert titled We Are One on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial two days before Obama’s inauguration. More than a few people at the National Mall on Sunday must have been reminiscing about the life of Marian Anderson, and just how amazed and proud she’d be. In 1939, Anderson, the famed American contralto, was banned from performing in the Daughters of the American Revolution’s Constitution Hall because of the color of her skin. So instead, she performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Just short of 70 years later, another huge concert on those very steps blended joy, remembrance and unabashed patriotism in celebration of Tuesday’s inauguration of Barack Obama before an integrated audience of hundreds of thousands, including Obama and his wife, Michelle; their daughters, Malia and Sasha; Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife, Jill; and their extended families.

Queen Latifah told the story of Marian Anderson, the renowned African-American opera singer who in 1939 had been barred from performing at Constitution Hall by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Anderson was subsequently invited to perform on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by Eleanor Roosevelt, who resigned her D.A.R membership in protest. Anderson sang the American anthem “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” before an integrated audience of an estimated 75,000 people. Today’s crowd of more than 400,000 people watched a black-and-white film clip of Anderson’s stirring performance seven decades ago, when few would ever have imagined that the son of an African father and a mother from Kansas could be elected president of the United States.

Marian Anderson’s story was followed by a performance by Josh Groban and Heather Headley. They sang “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in what was clearly meant to be a historic metaphor. In this groundbreaking symbolic moment, which was an open call of support for the freedom and rights of gay people, Groban and Headly were backed by members of the official Washington D. C. Gay Men’s Chorus, who were wearing the red AIDS ribbons pinned to their chests.

With very special thanks to Dave Valk.

Watch Josh Groban and Heather Headley sing with The Washington D. C. Gay Men’s Chorus:

Josh Groban Sings with The Washington D. C. Gay Men’s Chorus

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For Hope and Peace: Happy New Year 2009!!

For Hope and Peace: Happy New Year 2009!!

Josh Groban: You Raise Me Up

New Year’s Eve 2009: Celebrations Around the World


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Happy Holidays: Santas, Santas Everywhere!

Happy Holidays: Santas, Santas Everywhere!

Music Audio: Josh Groban/Noel

Santas All Around: Happy Holidays!

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Epiphany: Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

Epiphany: Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

The New York Times reported today that Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell endorsed Senator Barack Obama for president on Sunday morning, calling him a “transformational figure” who has reached out to all Americans with an inclusive campaign and displayed “a steadiness, an intellectual curiosity” and “a depth of knowledge” in his approach to the nation’s problems. The endorsement, on the NBC public-affairs program Meet the Press, was a major blow to Senator John McCain. In offering his endorsement, Mr. Powell became the highest-profile Republican to add his support to the Democratic ticket. Although he told Mr. Brokaw that he would not campaign for Mr. Obama in the final two weeks of the race, he did not rule out accepting an appointment in an Obama administration, whether it were a formal position or a more advisory role.

In a response to Colin Powell’s endorsement, Sen. Obama stated that Powell would have a role as a top presidential adviser in an Obama administration. “He will have a role as one of my advisers,” Barack Obama said on NBC’s Today in an interview that aired on Monday. “Whether he wants to take a formal role, whether that’s a good fit for him, is something we’d have to discuss,” Obama said.

More here.

Colin Powell Endorses Barack Obama

Music Audio: Josh Groban/You Raise Me Up

Barack Obama: A Change We Can Believe In

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The Final Presidential Debate: Obama Overwhelms McCain by Huge Margins

The Final Presidential Debate: Obama Overwhelms McCain by Huge Margins

Barack Obama Sweeps Post-Debate Polls

The New York Times gives interested readers a detailed review of last night’s third presidential debate between Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, as well as a transcript of the debate. In addition, the Times provides a video of the debate.

A new CBS News/New York Times poll showed that Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama entered the debate with a wide lead over Republican rival John McCain nationally. According to that poll, the Obama-Biden ticket now leads the McCain-Palin ticket 53 percent to 39 percent among likely voters, a 14-point margin. Just one week ago, prior to the Town Hall debate that uncommitted voters saw as a win for Obama, that margin was just three points.

Further, among independents who are likely voters, a group that has swung back and forth between McCain and Obama over the course of the campaign, the Democratic ticket now leads by 18 points. McCain led among independents last week. It appears that McCain’s campaign strategy is hurting hurt him: Twenty-one percent of voters say their opinion of the Republican has changed for the worse in the last few weeks. The top two reasons cited for the change of heart are McCain’s attacks on Obama and his choice of Sarah Palin as running mate.

A number of post-debate polls have concluded that Obama trounced McCain by wide margins in the debate. Early results in the CBS News and Knowledge Network’s national poll of uncommitted voters after last night’s debate found that fifty-three percent of the uncommitted voters surveyed identified Democratic nominee Barack Obama as the winner of tonight’s debate. Only twenty-two percent said that Republican rival John McCain won. Twenty-four percent said the debate was a draw.

The Huffington Post surveyed some other post-debate polls. A CNN poll of several hundred debate watchers favored Obama by large margins: 58 percent for Obama to McCain’s 31 percent. Perhaps more importantly, McCain’s favorable rating dropped from 51 to 49 while his unfavorable rating increased from 45 percent to 49 percent. Senator Obama ended up with a 66 percent favorable rating.

Meanwhile, virtually the entire Frank Luntz focus group on Fox News, which was held last night in Miami, said that Barack Obama had won the debate. Luntz termed it a “clear majority,” but not one person raised their hand when asked if they thought McCain had won. Said Luntz: “None had made a decision to support Sen. Obama before the debate, but more than half supported him after the debate. It was a good night for Barack Obama.”

Josh Grobin: The National Anthem (Concert for America)

The Third Presidential Debate: Obama’s Closing Statement

Who Do You Think Won the Presidential Debate?

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Hearing is Believing: Josh Groban’s Medley of TV Theme Songs

Hearing is Believing: Josh Groban’s Medley of TV Theme Songs

“Hearing is Believing: Josh Groban’s Medley of TV Theme Songs” must be heard to be believed. This is the story of a man named Groban, who sang a medley of television theme songs that we all know. In a musical tribute, singer Josh Groban performed bits of memorable themes at The 60th Primetime Emmy Awards. More than two dozen classic television program openings, including The Brady Bunch anthem, were contained in Groban’s four-minute-plus medley.

The Emmy musical team compiled a list of about 50 classics before whittling down the selections. The Simpsons and Friends themes made the cut, but many choices come from an earlier era, before business and ratings strategies shortened or eliminated television program themes.

Groban, who is 27-years-old, hadn’t even been born when many of the shows were at their height of popularity, but he saw them in reruns growing up, and watches them now while on tour, when he has ”a whole lot of hotel room time.” Although the medley diverges greatly from the pop-classical sound usually associated with Groban, he was the right choice, Emmy executive producer Ken Ehrlich said. ”Josh has an incredible sense of humor, but beyond that he’s interested in all kinds of music.”

Groban, who was first introduced to many of his fans on television a few years ago as a guest singer on Ally McBeal, says television songs don’t always get their due. ”Think how important they have been to the popular culture,” he says. ”You don’t really hear the respect being given to these seemingly simple but memorable-forever themes.”

Hearing is Believing: Josh Groban’s Medley of TV Theme Songs

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