Some remembrances of Nelson Mandela are properly crediting former Kansas Sen. Nancy Landon Kassebaum for ensuring that the United States was on the right side of history on South African apartheid. As chairwoman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s panel on African affairs, Kassebaum orchestrated the Senate economic sanctions bill in 1986, which meant bucking President Reagan and his policy of “constructive engagement” of the oppressive white minority government. In the end, Kassebaum persuaded 30 fellow Republicans to help override his veto of the sanctions bill. She had visited South Africa twice to inform her perspective. National Public Radio’s Cokie Roberts said Monday of the 78-21 veto override: “The single biggest factor in that vote was the voice of Nancy Kassebaum,” adding that “other members of the Senate knew she had done her homework, that she had no political agenda, that she just thought it was the right thing to do for both countries.” At the time, Kassebaum said: “Sanctions are a symbol that we care about the future of South Africa. That is the real issue, helping South Africa shape a peaceful future for all of its people.”
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