(WASHINGTON) — President Obama will speak Tuesday at a memorial honoring Nelson Mandela and will reflect on what “Mandela meant to the people of South Africa,” and “to him personally,” according to Ben Rhodes, the president’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications.
“You’ve heard him speak in the past about Nelson Mandela and the impact he had on the president,” Rhodes told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“I think also, though, remembering the various different roles that Nelson Mandela played over the years. He obviously is cemented in our memory as an icon, but he was an extraordinary political leader, an extraordinary leader of a movement to bring about change,” Rhodes said.
President Obama did not begin working on the speech until after Mandela’s passing, according to Rhodes. “We waited until we had an indication from the South African government that he may speak, and then he has been working on it over the weekend. And I’m sure he’ll continue to work on it on the plane,” Rhodes said.
Mandela, the former president of South Africa, celebrated for helping to end apartheid, died last Thursday evening at the age of 95.
More than 50 presidents, 15 prime ministers and nine royals, including kings, princes and queens, are expected attend the service. Hundreds of thousands of South Africans are also expected to attend.
Here’s who you can expect to see at the service:
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