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Barack Obama Remembers Nelson Mandela, His Legacy

JOHANNESBURG (AP) - President Barack Obama arrived in South Africa on Tuesday for a day of remembrance and celebration for his personal hero Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon who died last week at age 95.

Obama's motorcade pulled up to a rain-soaked stadium in Johannesburg about an hour into the ceremony, where world leaders and Mandela's grandchildren were lionizing the former South African president. Mourners erupted into massive cheers as they first spotted Obama and first lady Michelle Obama on television screens.

Joining Obama on the 16-hour trip aboard Air Force One were former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter were also scheduled to attend the memorial service, but traveled to South Africa separately.

The Obamas, the Bushes and Mrs. Clinton departed the front steps of the presidential plane together, a rare grouping of a current, former and possibly future president.

Obama will be among the speakers at Tuesday's memorial, joining tens of thousands of South Africans and dozens of dignitaries at the outdoor stadium in Johannesburg. A singing, joyous crowd was filling the stadium early Tuesday morning despite the rainy conditions.

White House aides said Obama began crafting his 20-minute remarks for the memorial after Mandela's passing last week. The president was expected to discuss Mandela's impact on his own life, as well as his transformation from prisoner to president.

"He obviously is cemented in our memory as an icon, but he was an extraordinary political leader, an extraordinary leader of a movement to bring about change," said Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser.

Obama's own political rise has drawn comparisons to Mandela. Each has the distinction of being his nation's first black president and each was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. But people close to Obama say the U.S. president is well aware that his own experience pales in comparison to Mandela's 27 years in prison fighting against a repressive government that brutally enforced laws that enshrined racial discrimination.

By the time Obama became president, Mandela had retired from public life. But they did have one in-person meeting, a hastily arranged 2005 encounter while Mandela was visiting Washington. The South African leader had been encouraged to meet a young, black U.S. senator who was a rising star in American politics and invited Obama to visit him at his hotel.

A single photo from the meeting shows the two men smiling and shaking hands, with Obama standing and Mandela sitting, his legs stretched out in front of him. The photo hangs in Obama's personal office at the White House, as well as in Mandela's office in Johannesburg.

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

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agdathome December 10 2013 at 10:55 AM

Isn't Africa Obama's birth place???????????????

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2 replies
nam2205 agdathome December 10 2013 at 11:11 AM


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texasreigns agdathome December 10 2013 at 11:29 AM

Only if you believe his 3 family members who claim it was.

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coljr December 10 2013 at 10:31 AM

poor barry ZERO, if only someone would think of him this way?
one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter?

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jdjackson1991 December 10 2013 at 10:24 AM

Okay guys lets be honest. Most of you are group thinkers. Mandela tried to redeme himself, however, he was not a great guy. He ordered the killing of numerous civilians. Simply google the following three things for more information: Church Street Bombing, ANC atrocities, and Necklacing.

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1 reply
coljr jdjackson1991 December 10 2013 at 10:32 AM

yeah, we KNOW. who's the "group thinkers"?
unless, you mean the barry ZERO followers?

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ch3n02junkie December 10 2013 at 10:23 AM

hopefully we can get him deported there!!!

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Nick Wessels December 10 2013 at 10:23 AM

Mandella was a great man that cared deeply for his people, Obama is a politician and we have 534 more just like him that care for no one but themselves.

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1 reply
coljr Nick Wessels December 10 2013 at 10:34 AM

he was a terrorist! Worse, even, than bill ayers (obaMAO's bestest buddy in the whoe wide world!)!

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ppllaanntt December 10 2013 at 10:22 AM

I wish Obama stayed there.

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1 reply
richjlouis ppllaanntt December 10 2013 at 10:28 AM


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DESMOND December 10 2013 at 11:08 AM

Madela throw a bomb into a crowd of what kind of people again..... and for what reason? and he refused to make a deal in prison not only to free himself but who? if some of you believe in all white rule in a country that has people of all colors......then south africa was a good fit for you 30 years ago.....not now.

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1 reply
esposd DESMOND December 10 2013 at 11:55 AM

I think the point being made is the "means" by which Mandela approached change in S.A., and some of the violent legacy which is overshadowed by the eventual outcome -- the move away from colonialism. Let's not forget Stalin's legacy and the perverted form on communism that led to the purges and murder of many native Russians.

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nam2205 December 10 2013 at 11:15 AM

anti apartheid icon? He was a terrorist. My hero. South Africa flourished, and now they don't.

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elcam69 December 10 2013 at 10:38 PM

he never made a big deal of the 22 navy seals that where butchered in afganistan or flew the flags in this country at half mass in there honor what a great american he is.

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1 reply
d.carns elcam69 December 10 2013 at 11:34 PM

That would be a patriotic jester and he is not patriotic or carries American values.

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fordrngr1 December 10 2013 at 10:18 AM

I thought he said that he had never met Mandela

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