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Nelson Madela memorial at National Cathedral

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WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - Vice President Joe Biden says former South African President Nelson Mandela taught the world that trust, justice and reconciliation are possible, and that change can come.

Vice President Joe Biden finishes speaking at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013, at the National Cathedral in Washington. AP Photo.

Biden spoke Wednesday at a memorial service attended by members of Congress, civil rights leaders and others at the Washington National Cathedral.

He says when Mandela was released after spending decades in prison, he would have been forgiven for continuing to be imprisoned by his own hatred and resentment. He says Mandela could have chosen anger and revenge.

But Biden says instead, Mandela chose trust and reconciliation as he worked to end apartheid. The racial segregation system was still in place when Mandela was released from prison.

Former U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry told of being the first among thousands to get arrested at the South African Embassy.

“And the first words out of my mouth was ‘free Nelson Mandela,’” she said.

Former D.C. mayor Sharon Pratt remembered Mandela as being down to earth, visiting and teasing her staffer he considered too thin. 

"He said in his country, she would reflect poorly on the man in her life. They would think he couldn't afford to feed her," Pratt said. 

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