Nelson Mandela, the man who inspired President Barack Obama's early activism, was clinging to life in South Africa as the president arrived in the country Friday during a three-country swing through continent. So far, the two are not scheduled to meet.
CBS News reported this morning that while Obama said would like to meet with the anti-apartheid icon he will "follow the (Mandela) family's lead in what is possible."
"We are going to completely defer to the wishes of the Mandela family and work with the South African government as relates to our visit," deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters in Senegal, reported Reuters.
"Whatever the Mandela family deems appropriate, that's what we're focused on doing in terms of our interaction with them."
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Obama has no public events scheduled on Friday, which leaves him the flexibility to visit Mandela, Reuters reported.
The president is scheduled to visit Robben Island, a former South African prison where many anti-apartheid activists, included Mandela, was held.
USA Today's Catalina Camia wrote that the former South African president remained in critical condition in a Pretoria hospital
"He's a personal hero, but I don't think I'm unique in that regard," Obama said at a news conference in Dakar with Senegalese President Macky Sall, reported USA Today. "I think he's a hero for the world. And if and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we'll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages."
This marks Obama's second trip to Africa. He visited Ghana during his first term, according to Reuters. In hopes to build up his administration's stature in Africa, Obama's team has been stressing its success in food security and public aid, Reuters said.
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"Africa has seen a steady and consistent increase in our overall resource investment each year that we've been in office," Reuters reported Raj Shah, head of USAID as saying. "And sustaining that in this political climate has required real trade-offs to be made in other areas, but we've done that."
Obama said, according to USA Today, that his involvement in the anti-apartheid movement while a college student "gave me a sense of what is possible in the world when righteous people, when people of goodwill work together on behalf of a larger cause."
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