OU President David Boren Remembers Nelson Mandela

Wednesday, December 11th 2013, 9:51 pm

Among those remembering Nelson Mandela: OU president David Boren, who forged a close personal relationship with the South African leader.

That relationship began a quarter of a century ago when Boren, as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, was instrumental in Mandela's release from captivity.

During a television interview during Mandela's first trip to the United States after his release, Mandela had asked that then Senator Boren come to New York to meet him and appear on the program.

"The American people, regardless of party or position on other issues, are not about to release the pressure until that system is changed," said Boren on the program, to which Mandela stood up and gave Boren a standing ovation.

"It was the peak of my political life to have someone like Nelson Mandela say he was giving me a standing ovation and to speak about the policies I tried to follow and my leadership and efforts," said Boren Wednesday from his office at OU.

Boren had worked closely with then president-elect George H.W. Bush to get Mandela released from captivity.

"We're talking in his vice president's office about strategy about Mandela's release," said Boren as he pointed to a picture of him and Bush. "He wanted to know how could we turn up the pressure to get Mandela released."

Boren also pointed to a picture of him and Mandela taken during that trip to New York.

"I've just given him and put in his pocket [a piece of paper with] telephone numbers where he could reach me if he felt his personal safety was ever in danger."

Boren's wall in his office at OU is a who's who of the world's political figures, but Boren says it was Mandela that made the biggest impression.

"I would have to say that Nelson Mandela is the most remarkable political leader that I have ever met and I might add one of the most remarkable human beings that I've ever met."

And Boren says, Mandela will be missed not only by him, but by the world.

"As long as he was on this year, it meant a lot to all of us because he was a person of such moral courage, I think he was an inspiration to the world."

Boren says he kept in contact with Mandela over the years, even tried to get him to visit OU. But Mandela's health wouldn't allow it.