|U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a speach on the death of Nelson Mandela, at the White House, Washington D.C., Dec. 5, 2013. Obama on Thursday mourned the death of Nelson Mandela, saying the former South African president has "achieved more than can be expected of anyman." (Xinhua/Zhang Jun)|
WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday mourned the death of Nelson Mandela, saying the former South African president has achieved more than "could be expected of any man."
In a televised speech made at the White House, Obama hailed Mandela as a man who has made real his ideal of "a democratic and free society" in which all live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.
"He achieved more than could be expected of any man," a saddened Obama said shortly after the announcement of Mandela's death. "And today, he's gone home. 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," he added.
Mandela, the first black president in South Africa, died of illness on Thursday at his home in Johannesburg at the age of 95, South African President Jacob Zuma said.
As the first black president in U.S. history, Obama hoped but failed to see his "personal hero" Mandela, when he visited the country on June 28-30 due to Mandela's hospitalization with a recurring lunch infection.
But Obama and his family visited a jail cell on Robben Island where Mandela spent much of his 27-year incarceration during South Africa's apartheid era.
"Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba transformed South Africa and moved all of us," Obama said, using Mandela's clan name.
"His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better, " Obama said. "His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or our own personal lives."
The United States joined 192 United Nations member states in the creation of Nelson Mandela International Day in 2009 to mark the former president's 67 years of public services.
"I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," Obama declared, saying his very first political action was a protest against apartheid.
"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," he said. "And 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, " the president said, calling "a free South Africa at peace with itself" a legacy left by Mandela.
Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999. He was released from hospital in early September after an 85-day stay for a recurring lung infection, a result of his longtime imprisonment.