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story.lead_photo.caption Former President Bill Clinton tells a story about Nelson Mandela during an appearance Sunday night at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock. - Photo by Thomas Metthe

Anne Eddy lingered in a replica of Nelson Mandela's Robben Island jail cell on Sunday, pausing to glance at the cell bars before her eyes drifted downward to the thin carpet of his bed.

"Could you imagine living in there?" one woman asked.

"I can't imagine ... [a] piece of carpet," Eddy said.

At the Clinton Presidential Center, a small crowd Sunday evening filtered through the exhibit on Mandela's life, leading visitors from his birth, to his imprisonment, to his eventual release from prison in 1990 after 27 years. The temporary exhibit, titled "Mandela: The Journey to Ubuntu," will close at the center Feb. 19.

Speaking before a packed audience, former President Bill Clinton said Mandela, who became president of South Africa four years after he was released from prison, lived by the word "ubuntu," or as Clinton said, "I am because you are."

"He had perhaps the greatest capacity of anyone I have ever known to respond to debasing, even violent behaviour with respect," Clinton said. "Compare that to what is normal today."

Clinton shared personal stories from his relationship with the man at the center of the anti-apartheid movement -- recalling late-night phone conversations with the world leader and the time Mandela insisted on talking to Chelsea Clinton to make sure she was doing her homework.

"So I went and got my daughter, I said, 'Chelsea, Nelson Mandela wants to talk,'" he said.

While in office, Clinton said the two did have heated conversations over differences on some issues. But those conversations, he said, never affected their relationship.

Clinton also highlighted Mandela's ability to forgive and forge a new future for his country.

"He believed that if he ever dealt with people with something less than respect, he would undermine the ability of his country to live and work as one," Clinton said. "I will always treasure those birthdays we shared, the talks we shared."

In one conversation, Clinton said Mandela recalled the hatred he felt while leaving the prison, and the fear he felt after not being free for 27 years. But Mandela said that right before he got in the car to leave, he had an insight that if he continued to hate he would still be their prisoner, Clinton recalled.

"I wanted to be free. And so I let it go," Clinton recalled Mandela saying.

Orlando Womack, who toured the exhibit Sunday, said he was impressed by the care and work that went into the outline of Mandela's life.

"It gave you a feeling of being in a struggle yourself," he said.

Photo by AP Photo/Schalk van Zuydam
In this Wednesday, July 18, 2012 file photo former South African President Nelson Mandela as he celebrates his birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa, Wednesday, July 18, 2012.

The dozens who attended Sunday's event also had the opportunity to view a second temporary exhibit featuring African items from the center's archives and Bill Clinton's own collection. That exhibit, titled "Art of Africa: One Continent, Limitless Vision," will close Feb. 11.

Metro on 09/25/2017

Print Headline: LR gets look at Mandela's life; Ex-President Clinton speaks of friend at exhibit opening

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  • mohinder
    September 25, 2017 at 10:18 a.m.

    Clinton is disgusting

  • wildblueyonder
    September 25, 2017 at 12:01 p.m.

    Can't we get rid of the Clinton's, please!

  • PopMom
    September 25, 2017 at 12:38 p.m.

    Actually, it is impressive that he made it back to Arkansas for the 1957 anniversary. Many of my friends who left the state are now starting to trickle back as they retire and age.

  • wildblueyonder
    September 25, 2017 at 3:02 p.m.

    Boy, am I ever "impressed"!

  • PopMom
    September 25, 2017 at 3:18 p.m.

    Well, Bill Clinton seems to have an understanding that he has neglected the state. While Hillary wants to blame her loss on many factors, it may be sinking in why some people don't like her. Although I have not been the biggest fan of the Clintons, I do not believe that they are racially prejudiced as is our current president. The Clinton Foundation does do some good in the world. They are not perfect, but they are not evil either.