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(WASHINGTON) — Vice President Joe Biden honored the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela by signing a book of condolences during a visit Monday morning to the South African embassy in Washington.

“On behalf of the American people, our deepest condolences to the people of South Africa for the passing of Nelson Mandela,” Biden wrote. “But more than that, our profound gratitude — for his compassion, his humility, and his courage.”

“Through his unflagging, unflinching commitment to human dignity and his willingness to forgive, he inspired us and challenged us all to do better.  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,” he wrote.

After signing the book, the vice president, who was joined by Dr. Jill Biden, spent time admiring the large bronze statue of Mandela outside the embassy.

“The most remarkable man I met in my whole career,” the vice president told reporters, before recounting his trip to South Africa in 1977, where he was unable to meet with Mandela who was imprisoned at the time. The two met years later, after Mandela was released from prison.

Biden will pay tribute to Mandela in remarks Wednesday at a memorial service at the National Cathedral.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


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