WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama sent his best wishes on Thursday to former South African President Nelson Mandela, who is being treated in a hospital for a recurring lung infection, and called the 94-year-old anti-apartheid leader an inspiration.
“He is as strong physically as he’s been in character and in leadership over so many decades, and hopefully he will … come out of this latest challenge,” Obama told reporters at the White House while meeting with four visiting African leaders.
“When you think of a single individual that embodies the kind of leadership qualities that I think we all aspire to, the first name that comes up is Nelson Mandela. And so we wish him all the very best,” Obama said.
Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years by South Africa’s apartheid government, became the nation’s first black president in 1994 and stepped down five years later. Obama is the first black president of the United States.
Obama made his remarks after meeting with leaders from Sierra Leone, Senegal, Malawi, and Cape Verde. Obama said they discussed how Washington could continue to partner effectively with each country.