Obama Compares Nelson Mandela to George Washington

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"Today I had the privilege of meeting with members of the Mandela family at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa, and spoke by telephone with Mrs. Graça Machel, who remained by her husband's side in the hospital in Pretoria," Obama said in a statment. "I expressed my hope that Madiba draws peace and comfort from the time that he is spending with loved ones, and also expressed my heartfelt support for the entire family as they work through this difficult time. I also reaffirmed the profound impact that his legacy has had in building a free South Africa, and in inspiring people around the world - including me. That's a legacy that we must all honor in our own lives, including this July on Mandela Day."

Machel said she has drawn "strength from the support received from President Barack Obama, Michelle, Malia and Sasha."

"Having taken the time to telephone me to express their solidarity and meet our children, they have added a touch of personal warmth that is characteristic of the Obama family. I am humbled by their comfort and messages of strength and inspiration which I have already conveyed to Madiba," she said in a statement.

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