Washington: Describing anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela as his personal hero, US President Barack Obama has said the African leader was one of the most influential, courageous and profoundly decent human beings to grace the earth.
"A personal hero of mine and of countless others, Nelson Mandela was one of the most influential, courageous, and profoundly decent human beings to grace the earth," Obama said joining people around the world in celebrating the Nelson Mandela International Day.
"A dignified warrior for justice and equality, he caused us to believe in the promise of a better world. Today, Madiba`s birthday, is the first time we have marked this occasion since he left this world late last year, but his impact on our lives remains palpable and his inspiration endures," he said.
Mandela, popularly known as `Madiba`, was born on July 18 1918. He died last year on December 5 at the age of 95 after suffering from pulmonary infection.
"A humble and committed public servant, Madiba said this day was not to be a holiday, but one devoted to service.
It was his hope that people would dedicate their time and effort to improve the conditions within their community, stating there `can be no greater gift than that of giving one`s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return`," Obama said.
"We may never see the likes of Madiba again, but we can honor and emulate him by taking time today, and all other days, to engage in acts of service,” he added.