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Obama wishes Nelson Mandela a happy birthday

By the CNN Wire Staff
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What we didn't know about Nelson Mandela
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • President Obama offers birthday wishes to Nelson Mandela
  • The former South African president turns 92 on Sunday
  • Obama calls on Americans to perform community service in honor of Mandela

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama called Sunday for Americans to perform community service in honor of Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday.

"On behalf of the United States, I wish Nelson Mandela a very happy 92nd birthday," Obama said in White House statement, referring to the former South African president who spent 27 years in prison before leading his country from white-minority rule to all-race democratic elections.

"We are grateful to continue to be blessed with his extraordinary vision, leadership, and spirit. And we strive to build upon his example of tolerance, compassion and reconciliation.," Obama said of Mandela, who is known around the world by his clan name, "Madiba."

Obama noted that Sunday was the first annual Nelson Mandela International Day, as proclaimed by the United Nations.

"I encourage us all to heed the call to engage in some form of service to others, in honor of the 67 years of sacrifice and service Madiba gave to us," Obama's statement said. "We strive to follow his example of what it means to truly give back to our communities, our nations, and our world."