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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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fisherman695 December 11 2013 at 8:07 AM

And you thought Jimmy Carter was bad, Obama is setting a new standard for BOZOs

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d.carns December 11 2013 at 5:23 AM

Got that right anytime Obama is speaking only lies are being spewed forth on the mindless wonders of humanity.

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dreamscapesnwinc December 11 2013 at 3:20 AM

His lips are moving, therefore he is lying. He is not my president, he is an abboration. As God is my witness, this should end

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EzinWy December 11 2013 at 2:25 AM

Obama talking. Does anyone believe anything what this guy says ? Seriously ? And if he had a real clue - on anything. What a disgrace.

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awvicktyawa December 11 2013 at 2:04 AM

A legendary, a living legacy that inspite of differentes in our faith, colours and languages we could live together in harmony! But next after Madiba? Will south Africa go the way of other African countries? Are we witnessing the end of era, and the begining of a new dawn?

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Stallion December 11 2013 at 1:53 AM

In other videos you'll see an African Sign Language interpreter standing on Obama's left side. I read that the interpreter was fake and that outraged the deaf community as an insult (in case you didn't know, deaf community is close knit). Can anybody verify that?

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Bob Conway, Jr. December 11 2013 at 1:35 AM

I am so sick of people in our country regardless of who are leaders are, attacking them in a very hateful manner with no respect for the positions they hold and with personal hurtful statements about just about every aspect of they and their families lives. These are men and women who have had enough guts and care for their country and its people to not just be standing or sitting on the sidelines
telling everyone all that's wrong with their leaders and what their doing wrong and what they should be doing. Most of them don't have the courage or dedication to put their own lives and reputations and that of their families in a fishbowl existence in order to make their country a better place!!. One can disagree with a leaders style or political viewpoint but to viciously personally attack them, even when, in this case, they travel accross the world to honor a special icon of a person who has made sacrifices beyond belief for the cause of his country and people is beyond contemptable. We all should show the world that what we say we believe; that people have a right to their opinion and others have a right to disagree with that opinion without personally disrspecting one another. People who are blessed enough to have the freedoms we do should be very grateful for those freedoms and not stoop to hateful, malicious, attacks in disrespect of those freedoms. I have tremendous respect for those that try their very best to take on the challanges of the country and the world and I thank their families for all the sacrifices they make in order for their loved one to try to make this a better country and world. Whether your Republican, Democrat, Conservative or Liberal thank you for your efforts to make our lives better and safer. God Bless You for all your sincere efforts!! Please do not be discouraged because there are many of us who are very proud of you and your families contributions to our lives. Disagree, voice your objections or approvals, but don't be hateful and hurtful Thank you for your attention!!

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3 replies to Bob Conway, Jr.'s comment
luisitogloria December 11 2013 at 1:32 AM

South Africa, you can keep Obama if you want . We do not need him back here.

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anderson.john619 December 11 2013 at 1:04 AM

Nelson Mandela was a great man he inspired us all my god accept him in heaven.
rest in peace Nelson Mandela my god bless you're soul and that of you're families for the rest of there lives.

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flyn321 December 11 2013 at 12:52 AM

OBAMA WILL LEAVE A LEGACY OF INCOMPETENCE AND ARROGANCE.

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