Mandela is an inspiration: Obama

18 July 2012

US President Barack Obama joined millions of people around the world in wishing former South African president Nelson Mandela well on his 94th birthday on Wednesday.

“Mandela’s extraordinary life and steadfast commitment to the principles of democracy and reconciliation continues to be a beacon for people of all backgrounds who strive for dignity, justice, and freedom,” Obama said in a statement.

He described Mandela’s personal story as one of “unbreakable will, unwavering integrity, and abiding humility.

“On a personal note, our family has been inspired by Madiba’s example, and has deeply appreciated the time we have spent with him, and his wisdom, grace and generosity of spirit,” Obama said.

“By any measure, Nelson Mandela has changed the arc of history, transforming his country, continent, and the world.”

In 2009, the United States joined 192 United Nations member states in the creation of Nelson Mandela International Day. On this day, people honour Madiba’s commitment to service and the betterment of communities.

People across South African and around the world have honoured the call to spend 67 minutes of their time on Mandela’s birthday to better their communities and help the poor.

“There is no more fitting tribute to a man who has demonstrated to the world the extraordinary power of non-violence, of tolerance, and of unwavering service to our fellow men and women,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, Mandela’s home village of Qunu in the Eastern Cape was a hive of activity on Wednesday with festivities lined up to celebrate the statesman’s birthday.

Mandela’s longtime friend, former US president Bill Clinton, was in Qunu on Tuesday to wish Mandela well.