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Obama says we live in 'strange and uncertain' times in speech to commemorate Nelson Mandela's legacy

(ABC News) - Former President Barack Obama calls current times "strange and uncertain" in a speech on Tuesday to commemorate the late Nelson Mandela – Obama's first visit to Africa since leaving office.

Mandela is known for being "the epitome of civil action" after he was imprisoned for 27 years for attempting to end apartheid in Africa, a system of institutionalized segregation that existed in South Africa for years.

The global icon died in 2013 and his legacy as the first black president of South Africa and years of activism will be celebrated with the 16th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. This year’s theme is titled "Renewing the Mandela Legacy & Promoting Active Citizenship in a Changing World," and more than 4,000 people are expected to attend.

 

PHOTO: A person walks past a banner depicting former South African leader Nelson Mandela and former president Barack Obama outside the Wanderers cricket stadium in Johannesburg, July 17, 2018, where Obama will deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture.Gianluigi Guercia/AFP/Getty Images

A person walks past a banner depicting former South African leader Nelson Mandela and former president Barack Obama outside the Wanderers cricket stadium in Johannesburg, July 17, 2018, where Obama will deliver the Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture.more +

 

The speech falls on the day before Mandela’s 100th birthday and is part of the series of events the Nelson Mandela Foundation has planned for the milestone. Before the lecture, Mandela's wife, Graça Machel, told the crowd of more than 4,000 people that Obama is one of the "finest global leaders of the 21st century" and a "youthful symbol of transformative leadership."

"Given the strange and uncertain times that we are in – and they are strange – and they are uncertain – with each day's news cycles bringing more head-spinning and disturbing headlines, I thought maybe it would be useful to step back for a moment and try to get some perspective," Obama said.

Obama will be the second U.S. president to deliver the lecture. Bill Clinton spoke in 2013.

Before Obama delivered his speech on Tuesday, the former president made a stop in Kenya on Monday to assist in the grand opening of a sports and fitness center. Founded by Obama's half-sister Auma Obama, the facility is in the city of Kogelo, the birthplace of their father.

 

PHOTO: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and former President Barack Obama stand on stage behind the Soweto Gospel Choir, during the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the Wanderers cricket stadium in Johannesburg, July 17, 2018.Marco LAFP/Getty Images

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and former President Barack Obama stand on stage behind the Soweto Gospel Choir, during the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at the Wanderers cricket stadium in Johannesburg, July 17, 2018.more +

 

Since parting office in 2017, Obama has spent his time delivering speeches, meeting with potential 2020 presidential candidates and spending a substantial amount of time on his foundation based in Chicago. Obama’s speech in Johannesburg is considered one of the most high-profile appearances the president will attend since his presidency.


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