The Two-Way
6:57 am
Fri June 28, 2013

With Mandela's Health As Backdrop, Obama Heads To S. Africa

Originally published on Fri June 28, 2013 3:10 pm

Update at 4 p.m. ET: President Arrives In South Africa

President Obama and his family landed in South Africa late Friday. It's the second stop on his one-week trip to the African continent.

Our original post continues:

As we've told you, Obama planned his visit to talk about democracy and security, but this leg of the trip has taken on new meaning because everyone's attention is on ailing former South African President Nelson Mandela.

NPR's Ari Shapiro, who's traveling with Obama, filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"This trip was planned long before Mandela's health took a turn for the worse. Now, one question is whether the full South Africa itinerary will go forward as scheduled.

"The White House says all of the events are still on track. But in Dakar, President Obama acknowledged that the world's focus is on Mandela.

"'If and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we'll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages,' Obama said Thursday.

"Obama added that the world's thoughts and prayers are with the people of South Africa and the Mandela family."

This morning, The New York Times focuses on the relationship between Obama and Mandela. They've only met once in person, during an impromptu meeting in Washington, D.C., in 2005 when Obama was a senator.

While Obama rejects direct comparisons to Mandela, the Times notes there are worthy symmetries: The "two men from different generations who made history as the first black presidents of nations with deep racial divides. Both embraced a cool pragmatism in their attempt to be post-racial leaders, and both have inspired as well as disappointed many supporters."

During Thursday's news conference, Obama recalled that his first act of political activism came in college, inspired by the anti-apartheid movement led by Mandela.

The Times reports:

"In the foreword that Mr. Obama wrote to Mr. Mandela's 2010 book, 'Conversations With Myself,' he describes the early impact that Mr. Mandela's struggle had on his life and his entry into politics.

" 'His sacrifice was so great that it called upon people everywhere to do what they could on behalf of human progress,' Mr. Obama wrote. 'In the most modest of ways, I was one of those people who tried to answer his call.' "

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