By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – America’s first black president, Barack Obama, hailed Nelson Mandela on Thursday as a source of personal inspiration whose struggle against racism in South Africa jump-started his own involvement in politics.
Speaking in the White House press room shortly after the announcement of Mandela’s death, a somber-looking Obama said the 95-year-old former South African president left a legacy of freedom and peace.
“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life. My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid,” Obama said.
“Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him,” he said.
Obama, the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas, has long referred to Mandela as an inspiration.