Although Obama shied away from direct comparisons, he often said how much Mandela influenced him. Obama said he first got into political action through the anti-apartheid protests when he was a student at Occidental College.
“I would study his words and his writings,” Obama said in a news conference on the day of Mandela’s death. “The day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.”
They only met once, in 2005, but they talked on the phone from time to time.
KCRW’s Madeleine Brand spoke with David Maraniss, author of the biography “Barack Obama: The Story,” about the influence Mandela had on President Obama.
“I think that Nelson Mandela, more than any figure in Obama’s lifetime, represented the moral high ground of what he wished the world could be like, and what he wished he could be like,” Maraniss said. Listen to more of the conversation here: