“I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life,” a visibly moved President Obama said Thursday following news that the former president of South Africa had died.

“My very first political action — the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics was a protest against apartheid,” Obama said. “I would study his words and his writings. The day he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they’re guided by their hopes and not by their fears.

“And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set,” Obama continued. “And so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him.”