President Obama praised Nelson Mandela on Thursday, saying the former South African leader symbolized the fight for freedom and dignity throughout the world.
“He achieved more than can be expected of any one man,” said the nation’s first African-American president.
Mandela now “belongs to the ages,” Obama said at the White House within an hour of the announcement of Mandela’s death.
In a statement on Mandela’s 95th birthday in July, the president and first lady Michelle Obama send best wishes to the former South African president, and said his life has inspired millions.
“May Nelson Mandela’s life of service to others and his unwavering commitment to equality, reconciliation, and human dignity continue to be a beacon for each future generation seeking a more just and prosperous world,” the Obamas said.
Obama’s predecessors also paid tribute.
“President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time,” said former President George W. Bush. “He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example.”
Ex-President George H.W. Bush said he and wife Barbara “mourn the passing of one of the greatest believers in freedom we have had the privilege to know.”
The elder Bush said he “watched in wonder” as Mandela “had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers following 26 years of wrongful imprisonment — setting a powerful example of redemption and grace for us all.”
Read more: USA Today