Former US secretary of state Hillary Clinton on Friday praised the life of South Africa's late leader Nelson Mandela, whom she hailed as "a giant among us."
Clinton, who was accepting a prestigious human rights award in Washington, focused on Mandela's death, saying Americans and others should use his towering moral authority as a compass to improve conditions worldwide.
"We meet on the day after the loss of a giant among us," said Clinton, who recalled how she first met Mandela in 1992 and again on subsequent occasions, including when she was America's top diplomat.
Mandela, who died at age 95, was "someone who by the power of his example demonstrated unequivocally how each of us can choose how we will respond to those injustices and grievances, those sorrows and tragedies that afflict all of humankind," she told hundreds of guests at a Capitol Hill ceremony.
Clinton became the first woman recipient of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize, named after the Holocaust survivor and US congressman who died in 2008.
Clinton, 66, noted that Mandela and Lantos were both born into oppression -- Lantos in Nazi-era Hungary, Mandela in apartheid South Africa -- and overcame "the worst that humanity can offer."
Their commitment to human rights transcended borders and inspired Clinton to embark on her quest to improve conditions for women around the world.
"Secretaries of state come and go, but what remains is that profound commitment to making a difference, in whatever position we find ourselves," Clinton said.
Her audience listened closely for any hint about her political future, with Clinton widely regarded as the leading Democratic candidate in the 2016 presidential race.
Clinton, who in September indicated she was "not in any hurry" to decide whether or not to run, made no comment on the matter.
Madeleine Albright, America's first female secretary of state, introduced Clinton as a human rights visionary but also suggested that there might be more to accomplish for the woman who once occupied the White House as first lady.
"She has shattered almost every glass ceiling," Albright said.
© AFP 2014