By Jake Perlman
December 05, 2013 at 12:00 PM EST
Theana Calitz/AP

The passing of former South African President Nelson Mandela at the age of 95, touched people all over the world and celebrities took to Twitter and other social media networks to honor the late activist.  Read on for statements from Bill Clinton, Anderson Cooper, Paul Simon, John Legend, and more. Morgan Freeman, who played Mandela in Invictus, also shared his thoughts in a statement released to the press earlier on Thursday.

I met him once, in February 1995. He’d not long been President of the new Republic of South Africa and a debate was on to write the new constitution. A Constitutional Committee was lobbying to ensure that it would be constitutionally illegal to discriminate on grounds of sexuality. The Committee invited me to raise funds for their work, with my solo show A Knight Out, which I performed in CapeTown, Durban and Johannesburg. — Ian McKellen. Read the entire tribute here.

“It is impossible to sum up the impact Nelson Mandela had on South Africa and the world.  I will never forget the day I met him and experienced firsthand his indomitable spirit and warm, charismatic smile.  What he went through and what he accomplished will never be forgotten.” — Clint Eastwood (Invictus)

I will never forget the time I spent with President Mandela. Even before I met him, he was one of my heroes. But during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics in South Africa, I had the opportunity to stand with him in his former jail cell at Robben Island to light the torch, and his legend grew before my eyes. He told me about his struggles, his time in captivity, his persecution and oppression. Most people would have had nothing in their heart but revenge, but all President Mandela had was forgiveness. He is the definition of serving a cause greater than self. He singlehandedly reunited his nation, because he had a vision of the future that should inspire all of us. President Mandela’s life is the closest thing we have to proof of God. I will never be able to thank him enough for his inspiration.  Today, each of us should commit to do at least one small thing to improve the planet in his honor. Give back. Help someone. Change the world. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and the people of South Africa. — Arnold Schwarzenegger


Nelson Mandela: His Life in Pictures

Dignitaries and Stars Pay Tribute

Flashback: The Actors Who’ve Portrayed Him

Prince William at ‘Mandela’ Premiere: He Was ‘an Extraordinary and Inspiring Man’