Maya Angelou

'His Day Is Done' - Poem in Tribute to Nelson Mandela

delivered December 2013

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


His day is done.

Is done.

The news came on the wings of a wind

Reluctant to carry its burden.


Nelson Mandela’s day is done.


The news, expected and still unwelcome

Reached us in the United States and



Our world became somber.

Our skies were leadened


His day is done.


We see you, South African people

Standing speechless at the slamming

Of that final door

Through which no traveler returns.


Our spirits reach out to you

Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer


We think of you

And your son of Africa,

Your father

Your One More Wonder of the World.


We send our souls to you

As you reflect upon

Your David armed with

A mere stone facing down


The mighty Goliath,

Man of strength Gideon,

Emerging Triumphant


Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid

Scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism,

Unjustly imprisoned

In the bloody maws of South African Dungeons.


Would the man survive?

Could the man survive?


His answer strengthened men and women

Around the world.


In the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas

On the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco,

In Chicago’s Loop

In New Orleans Mardi Gras,

In New York City’s Times Square


We watched as the hope of Africa sprang

Through the prison’s doors


His stupendous heart intact,

His gargantuan will

Hale and hearty


He had not been crippled by brutes

Nor was his passion for the rights

Of human beings

Diminished by twenty-seven years of



Even here in America

We felt the cool

Refreshing breeze of freedom.


When Nelson Mandela took

The seat of Presidency

In his country

Where formerly he was not even allowed to vote

We were enlarged by tears of pride

As we saw Nelson Mandela’s

Former prison guards

Invited, courteously, by him to watch

From the front rows

His inauguration.


We saw him accept

The world’s award in Norway

With the grace and gratitude

Of the Solon in Ancient Roman Courts

And the confidence of African Chiefs

From ancient royal stools.


No sun outlasts its sunset

But will rise again

And bring the dawn


Yes, Mandela’s day is done,


Yet we, his inheritors

Will open the gates wider

For reconciliation and we will respond

Generously to the cries

Of Blacks and Whites,

Asian, Hispanics,

The poor who live piteously

On the floor of our planet

He has offered us understanding

We will not withhold forgiveness

Even from those who do not ask


Nelson Mandela’s day is Done


We confess it in tearful voices

Yet we lift our own to say


Thank you.

Thank you, Our Gideon.

Thank you, Our David.

Our great courageous man


We will not forget you

We will not dishonor you

We will remember and be glad

That you lived among us


That you taught us


That you loved us



See Also: 'His Day Is Done' Poster Poem.pdf

Audio Source:

Text and Poster Source:

Audio Note: AR-XE = American Rhetoric Extreme Enhancement

Page Updated: 7/1/19

U.S Copyright Status: Text and Audio = Public domain.

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