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In Memoriam

Obama eulogizes Mandela: ‘You can make his life’s work your own’

'Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.'
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
President Barack Obama speaks to crowds attending the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.

Matt Dunham, AP
President Barack Obama speaks to crowds attending the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela at the FNB Stadium in Soweto near Johannesburg, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Celebrating one of his personal heroes, President Barack Obama on Tuesday praised Nelson Mandela as the last great liberator of the 20th century, urging the world to carry on his legacy by fighting inequality, poverty and discrimination.

At a memorial service in Johannesburg, Obama compared the former South African President to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Abraham Lincoln.

Matt Dunham, APPresident Barack Obama kisses Nelson Mandela's widow Graca Machel during the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Matt Dunham, AP
President Barack Obama kisses Nelson Mandela’s widow Graca Machel during the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela.

Muhammed Muheisen, AP

Muhammed Muheisen, AP
President Barack Obama speaks to mourners attending the memorial service for former South African president Nelson Mandela.

“Nothing he achieved was inevitable,” Obama said fo Mandela, who died Thursday at age 95. “In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, persistence and faith. He tells us what’s possible not just in the pages of dusty history books, but in our own lives as well.”

The President also stressed his belief that in the fight for human rights and equality, including LGBT rights, people must press forward while he acknowledged significant achievements in those rights.

“Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.”

Calling himself a beneficiary of Mandela’s struggle, Obama traced the influence that Mandela’s story has had on his own life, disclosing that he asks himself how well he’s applied Mandela’s lessons to himself as a man and as president.

He said in the U.S., South Africa and around the world, people must not allow progress that’s been made to cloud the fact that more work must be done.

“We, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many of us who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality,” Obama said, referring to Mandela by his traditional clan name.

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“We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again,” Obama said. “But let me say to the people of Africa, and young people around the world: You can make his life’s work your own.”

The crowd at the half-filled stadium erupted in applause each time Obama’s name was mentioned or his image was shown on the screen. Dozens gathered below the box seats where Obama and other U.S. presidents sat, waving and snapping pictures of the leaders.

In a statement released to reporters, the White House said Obama did meet with members of Mandela’s family during the memorial service, including Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, and expressed condolences on behalf of the American people.

Associated Press contributed to this report.
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59 more reader comments:

  1. Yes We Can!

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:12pm
  2. AMEN

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:24pm
  3. And persecuted for not liking a president and for not wanting certain communistic health coverage

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:13pm
  4. Communistic Health coverage ? Really How about affordable health coverage for all americans ORis it nly about you :?

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:17pm
  5. It's not persecution. People just disagree with you.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:18pm
  6. Not sure what you mean Lizzee.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:18pm
  7. Is this article talking about that? No. Stop making everything about you, go sit in a corner somewhere. Today is about Mandela and Africa, not your selfish American beliefs.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:19pm
  8. stupid bitch, it is not communistic, basic medical care is a HUMAN RIGHT you twaddle

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:29pm
  9. protip, John: while I agree Lizzee is way off base with this, you're not going to win favors from either "side" by calling a woman "bitch". That kind of stuff has a real sexist edge to it.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:37pm
  10. "Communistic health coverage" - you mean like the rest of the developed world? BTW, The ACA was developed by a right-wing think tank. Somehow I think you just don't like the man who brought it to you or something about him.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:48pm
  11. How communistic is the health coverage while it's being purchased from private insurance companies? Obamacare is NOT insurance, but a set of rules on insurance and a government WEB SITE to SIMPLIFY the purchase of PRIVATE insurance w/ or w/o assistance.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:51pm
  12. Right. A mandate to participate in privately owned, capitalist companies is not communism, and you are not being persecuted for your beliefs.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:00pm
  13. Paying only $130 - $224 per month for insurance that you can no longer be refused seems like a pretty sweet deal to me.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:04pm
  14. That is right. Republicans have been trying to get the ACA into effect since the 90s. They have something against it now that Barack has got it passed.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:07pm
  15. C'mon folks, this isn't about the healthcare argument. Nelson Mandela was a great man who overcame decades of imprisonment without turning bitter and hateful, then rose up and pressed and fought to have an oppressive regime removed from his home. He was a man about peace and equality, so let's remember him and not fall into arguments that can only take away from his memory... at least for today.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:31pm
  16. Of course also downplaying the real impact and meaning of Nelson Mandela. He was a revolutionary, he committed righteous acts of violence in defense of an alien order in his own home. But no, by all means, suck up the cleaned up image of white and safe, huggable Grandpa Mandela,

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:14am
  17. Shame on you!

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:58am
  18. I love this guy.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:22pm
  19. Thank you Mr. Obama for your continued support of the LGBTQ community…You have done a lot on our behalf….you signed Hate Crimes bill….ending of DADT….You have come out in favor or marriage when your original stance was not in favor…..BRAVO

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:27pm
  20. he doesn't give a shit about women or LGBT, he's just throwing them a bone to get more support, all politicians do it

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:07pm
  21. Hate crimes bill is a step towards mandatory hate speech codes, Do you really want that?

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:15am
  22. What I want is a PERFECT WORLD...obviously in the narrative of a perfect world we would have people tried and convicted for hate crimes while at the same time protecting ALL free speech...Until that day arrives I could do with SEVERAL BIGOTS right now being forced to stop spewing their hate towards the LGBTQ community .....Seriously...I get your point...Where do we draw the line and still protect the freedom of speech???

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:24am
  23. and the US still operate Gitmo

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:28pm
  24. Love my President..

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:29pm
  25. “Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.’” He’s jumping on the bandwagon. Oh lawd.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:29pm
  26. ...bandwagon? So you think there's no-one left in this world who would fight against said persecution?

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:45pm
  27. Trust me Dominic Fucinari, look a the video's I posted and you'll see the little he did for that country altough he fought for "freedom"

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:00pm
  28. ...you didn't post any videos in this chain of comments.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 1:09am
  29. does this include chelsea manning and others?

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:35pm
  30. What's your point? Manning broke the law. She doesn't get a free pass because she's trans.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:56pm
  31. Mandela was also a law breaker on behalf of freedom... freedom comes in many forms. this is not a gender issue.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 9:57pm
  32. randy you idiot, she exposed all the corruption and war crimes that have occurred in afghanistan, nelson mandela used to be a major player in the ANC

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:07pm
  33. 25% of the world’d incarcerated are in the USA. Just saying.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:22pm
  34. I thought that had to do with overpunishing the ordinary hard drug users, and all those for-profit prisons in and around Louisiana and Mississippi.

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:44pm
  35. Hard to take this eulogy seriously when he had so little respect he was snapping selfies during the Memorial service.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:28pm
  36. ...snapping selfies? Says who?

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:44pm
  37. http://newsfeed.time.com/2013/12/10/smize-obama-and-european-leaders-snap-a-selfie-at-mandela-memorial/

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:45pm
  38. Says Time magazine. Last I checked they were considered a reputable source for news. :)

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:46pm
  39. time is a shit rag, but he did take selfies

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:08pm
  40. LOL, note I said considered, I never said they actually were. :)

    Replied on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:11pm
  41. Had it been a period of mourning, rather than a celebration of life, I could see a point in bringing up the "selfies," but it wasn't exactly the same as a funeral.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 1:09am
  42. uh-huh, let's see if you feel that way when someone is doing it at a close loved one's memorial.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 1:41am
  43. Cuz I know exactly how I would feel.

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 1:41am
  44. Though Obama may be a mediocre president, it’s great to see Mandela getting a great tribute and people standing up to discrimination.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:50pm
  45. @Domonic Poisson, of course fighting against persecution is good but I don’t see killing innocent white farmers, melting people’s faces and killing children is the right way.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 10:55pm
  46. Who killed white farmers, melted people's faces, and killed children? Did Mandela orchestrate that? Where did you hear this, and about who (if not Mandela)?

    Replied on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 1:06am
  47. And of they want their fucking right to own guns!! Don’t trust him..

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:34pm
  48. Says the guy who has also been speaking out against Ed Snowden, and acting like NSA is nothing big..
    Oh, and who hasn’t taken a conclusive stance on Palestine.

    Yeah. You could start by making Mandela’s legacy your own. Good orator, worse politician.

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:45pm
  49. well say

    Posted on Tuesday, December 10, 2013 at 11:51pm
  50. honorable speech….president obama represented our country well , with grace , truth , and respect…

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:04am
  51. While overseeing an oppressive and violent war to further the entrench the nightmare of global american totalitarian order.

    HEIL AMERICA!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:10am
  52. Love My President

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 12:13am
  53. I think the best way to remember Nelson Mandela is to help out the world the best you can to make a difference and to all come together to one day hopefully achieve world peace. His goal was a free south Africa and peace and I think he wanted to create world peace and world freedom.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 1:58am
  54. Yes let’s praise the co founder of the terrorist organization UmKhonto we Sizwe (MK) that is responsible for the deaths of civilians.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:05am
  55. So proud of you President Obama!!!! Thank you for standing up for equality!!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 2:23am
  56. His work is absolutely my work!

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 5:06am
  57. quite the change from his position that ”gays should not be allowed to marry” 4 years ago. But at least it’s change for the better.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 5:58am
  58. obama please come and kick the smug fucker david cameron out of no10 please

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 7:52am
  59. Part of America’s budget funds money to Israel to discriminate, terrorise, and murder Palestinians.

    Posted on Wednesday, December 11, 2013 at 8:35am