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Obama: Mandela 'Belongs To The Ages'

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President Barack Obama has long described Nelson Mandela as one of his personal heroes, and on Thursday, the president offered a deeply personal reflection on Mandela's legacy. Washington bureau reporter Geoff Bennett filed the following report for NY1.

Shortly after South African President Jacob Zuma announced that revered statesman Nelson Mandela died at the age of 95, President Barack Obama delivered remarks from the White House press briefing room, hailing Nelson Mandela's example to the world.

"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," Obama said. "Today, he has 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 met Mandela just once, when Obama was still the junior senator from Illinois. On Thursday evening, the president paid tribute to Mandela in personal terms.

"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. "I would study his words and his writings. The day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears."

That sentiment was shared outside the South African Embassy in Washington, where mourners bid farewell.

"I feel as though we've lost the greatest person that certainly lived in my lifetime, if not ever," said one person.

The nation, and its president, remembered a man who inspired millions.

"For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived, a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice," Obama said. "May God Bless his memory and keep him in peace." ClientIP: UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP