PEORIA - The world watched as tens of thousands remembered Nelson Mandela last week.
Central Illinois Congressman Aaron Schock was in that sea of people, leading a delegation of Congressional members from Washington, D.C.
We sat down with Schock, to talk about his trip, why he was picked to go, and what a man from South Africa means for our country's future.
He was in the air longer than on South African soil, but Congressman Aaron Schock says he wouldn't have missed this chance to be a part of history.
“I think it shows someone who's gone through enormous struggle, wrongdoings against him, somebody who overcame them, became a better person," says Schock.
A man who sat in prison for 27 years, looking forward to what he could do to bring change to the world.
“I think, who am I, some days, to get bogged down by something somebody would say that's mean or nasty, or wrong done against me? Really, there's not many of us who have much to compare to in terms of Nelson Mandela in terms of struggles within his personal life," adds Schock.
Even surrounding his trip to South Africa, some questioned why it was important for Schock to go.
He was tapped by the Speaker of the House to lead the delegation. The congressman says it brought people together. Much like the man they were there to honor.
“It really spanned the ideological spectrum in Congress. Everyone from Ted Cruz, who is about as conservative as you can get, leaders of the black caucus, who tend to be more liberal in the house," says Schock.
He saw massive crowds of Mandela supporters.
He saw a line of U.S. Presidents unite, 100 heads of state, that handshake.
“I saw the handshake, I was sitting there and it didn't offend me because, I thought what the President said was appropriate,” says Schock. “What the President said was, "Shame on a those leaders who embrace Nelson Mandela's record of freedom, opportunity, democracy, but fail to implement them in their own country".
Mandela, the man, may be gone, but Schock says we shouldn't lose sight of his vision and the need to implement his ideology in the United States now, more than ever.
“What we can take from his life, lessons learned,” says Schock. “Apply it ourselves from a governing standpoint, but also individual Americans should take this from a man who has gone one, done great things."
Nelson Mandela was laid to rest Sunday in his childhood village.