Celebrating one of his personal heroes, president Barack Obama has 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 the Johannesburg memorial service Mr Obama compared the former South African President to Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln. He said Mr Mandela had earned his place in history through struggle, shrewdness, persistence and faith.
“For nothing he achieved was inevitable,” Mr Obama said. “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.”
Mr Obama traced the influence that Mr Mandela’s story has had on his own life, disclosing that he asks himself how well he has applied Mr Mandela’s lessons to himself as a man and as president.
He said in the US, South Africa and around the world, people must not allow progress that has 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,” Mr Obama said, referring to Mr Mandela by his traditional clan name.