Obama: Give Thanks for the Fact That Mandela Lived

The president pays tribute to the South African leader's life and legacy.

Posted: 12/05/2013 05:57 PM EST

President Obama on Thursday night offered a moving tribute to South African President Nelson Mandela shortly after news broke of his death at age 95. Speaking from the White House briefing room, the president recalled Mandela's extraordinary life, leadership and lasting impact on the world.

"Today he's gone home and we've lost one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that any of us will share time with on this Earth. He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages," Obama said. "Through is fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us. His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better."

Obama also recalled Mandela's influence on his own political aspirations, noting that his first political stand was a protest against apartheid.

"The day he was released from prison, it gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears. And like so many around the globe, I cannot imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set."

The president said that there will not likely be another leader like Mandela again and urged all to give thanks for "a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe toward justice."

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(Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

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