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Biden signs Mandela condolence book at embassy

Monday - 12/9/2013, 2:48pm  ET

Vice President Joe Biden, right, and wife Jill Biden, pay their respects to former South African President Nelson Mandela outside the South African embassy in Washington, Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, after signing a condolence book inside. While gazing at a statue of Mandela, Biden said that the former president was, "the most remarkable man I met in my whole career." President Obama is en route to South Africa to attend a Tuesday memorial service for Nelson Mandela. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Joe Biden honored the memory of anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela Monday by making an inscription in a condolence book at the South African Embassy that said Americans will strive to live by his example.

Biden's visit came as President Barack Obama was traveling to Johannesburg to speak at Mandela's memorial service Tuesday. Biden plans to speak Wednesday at a Mandela memorial service at the National Cathedral in Washington.

Biden and wife Jill took a short motorcade ride across the street from their residence to the embassy on a cold, drizzly Monday morning. Stopping out front to look at the newly installed statue of Mandela, Biden called him "the most remarkable man I met in my whole career."

Biden recalled traveling to South Africa in 1977 to meet with anti-apartheid leaders, but he was unable to meet with Mandela because he was in the midst of a 27-year prison sentence. Biden said after Mandela was freed and became the first black South African president in 1994, Mandela came to visit Biden and thank him for his support.

"We're not going to see the likes of this guy for a long, long, long time," Biden told reporters.

Biden sat at a small table flanked with two candles inside the embassy and wrote out condolences on behalf of the American people.

"Through his unflagging, unflinching commitment to human dignity and his willingness to forgive, he inspired us and challenged us all to do better," Biden wrote. "He once said that 'a good head and a good heart is a formidable combination.' Mandela's head and heart lifted a nation to freedom. We will continue to keep his spirit alive and strive to live by his example."

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