Barack Obama is leading the tributes to Nelson Mandela in the memorial service today in Soweto's FNB Stadium. Ninety heads of states and former leaders, including Kofi Annan, Desmond TuTu, George W. Bush, Bill and Hilary Clinton and Prime Minister David Cameron are in attendance. Other notable guests include Michelle Obama, Bono and Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron.
President Obama led the tributes to Nelson Mandela, in a powerful speech in which he lectured on Mandela's principles. Obama compared him to Gandhi and Martin Luther King and said: 'Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by elders of his Thembu tribe - Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century.' He added: 'It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner but the jailer as well.'
In the highly personal speech, which received a standing ovation from several world leaders, Obama said:
'We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa, and young people around the world - you can make his life’s work your own. Over thirty years ago, while still a student, I learned of Mandela and the struggles in this land. It stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities - to others, and to myself - and set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be better. He speaks to what is best inside us.'
You can read Obama's full speech here, which is arguably the president's most moving and powerful public address to date.
Soweto's FNB Stadium [Getty]
When he took his seat among world leaders, Obama shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro, which is believed to be the first time a US president and Cuban leader have shaken hands since the Cuban revolution in 1959.
Mandela's family and friends also read tributes at the service as Mandela's great-grandaughter, Pumla Mandela said in a speech: 'When sadness and celebrations mingle, the body shudders, shakes and implodes .. the land heaves, dreams of a future without you, Madiba. You are lodged in our memories, you tower over the world like a comet, leaving streaks of light for us to follow. We salute you.' General Thanduxolo Mandela said: 'We're here to celebrate a glorious life lived ... we extend our gratitude to the communities around the globe for their thoughts, prayers and solidarity they have expressed to our family ... Mandela was a great man, but humble in all things.'