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Obama Expected to Speak at Mandela Memorial

11:55 AM, Dec 9, 2013   |    comments
President Barack Obama pauses as he makes a statement regarding the death of former South African president Nelson Mandela. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
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David Jackson, USA TODAY

President Obama will make remarks on Nelson Mandela's legacy during a memorial service Tuesday for the late South African freedom fighter, officials said Monday.

"We do expect President Obama to speak as part of the program," said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

The president and first lady Michelle Obama departed Monday for Johannesburg, where a Mandela memorial service will be held in a soccer stadium.

Obama, who will also spend time with the Mandela family, is not scheduled to hold any bilateral meetings with foreign leaders while in South Africa, Rhodes said.

Rhodes also said the U.S. expects to have a delegation at Mandela's burial on Sunday, but the details are still being worked out.
Former president George W. Bush and wife Laura are aboard Air Force One with Obama.

So is former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but former president Bill Clinton is traveling separately.

Former president Jimmy Carter will also attend the Mandela memorial in South Africa.

Meanwhile, Vice President Biden and wife Jill visited the South Africa Embassy in Washington on Monday to sign a condolence book honoring Nelson Mandela.

Biden will speak Wednesday at a special memorial service for Mandela to be held at the National Cathedral in Washington.

According to the vice president's office, Biden wrote in the condolence book:

"On behalf of the American people, our deepest condolences to the people of South Africa for the passing of Nelson Mandela. But more than that, our profound gratitude - for his compassion, his humility, and his courage.

"Through his unflagging, unflinching commitment to human dignity and his willingness to forgive, he inspired us and challenged us all to do better.

"He once said that 'a good head and a good heart is a formidable combination.' Mandela's head and heart lifted a nation to freedom. We will continue to keep his spirit alive and strive to live by his example."

 

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