"I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. 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 told White House reporters soon after he was informed about the death of the former South African President. Nelson Mandela passes away (Agencies)
"I would study his words and his writings. The day he was released from prison it gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears. Like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set. And so long as I live, I will do what I can to learn from him," Obama added.
Mourning the loss of Mandela, Obama said he was one of world's most influential, courageous and profoundly good human beings that "any of us will share time" with on this earth.
"He no longer belongs to us; he belongs to the ages. Through his fierce dignity and unbending will to sacrifice his own freedom for the freedom of others, Madiba (Mandela's clan name) transformed South Africa and moved all of us,” said Obama.
"His journey from a prisoner to a president embodied the promise that human beings and countries can change for the better. His commitment to transfer power and reconcile with those who jailed him set an example that all humanity should aspire to, whether in the lives of nations or in our own personal lives," he added.
Obama further said, "The fact that he did it all with grace and good humor and an ability to acknowledge his own imperfections, only makes the man that much more remarkable. As he once said, 'I'm not a saint unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”
"For now, let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived, a man who took history in his hands and bent the arc of the moral universe towards justice," Obama said.
"In the modern age, Nelson Mandela will be remembered as an unsurpassed healer of human hearts," said Mitt Romney, the former Republican presidential candidate.
"Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. And Hillary, Chelsea and I have lost a true friend," said former US President Bill Clinton.
"History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation. We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life," Clinton added.
Deeply saddened by the death, the House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the world has lost an exceptional leader who made the world a better place by illuminating in his own nation the shining light of freedom.
"From prisoner to president, Mr Mandela demonstrated a lifelong commitment to justice and human rights, and his legacy should serve as an example for all of us," he said.
"With the passing of Nelson Mandela, the world has lost a leader who advanced the cause of equality and human rights, who overcame a history of oppression in South Africa to expand the reach of freedom worldwide," said Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Leader.
Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the world has lost a humble, courageous and generous man.
"One of democracy's strongest champions, Nelson Mandela selflessly served South Africa. His vision and lack of vindictiveness was amazing, and brought South Africans through a very difficult transition, which could have gone in a very different, violent direction," he said.
"Few individuals in human history can truly claim a legacy of peace and perseverance like Mandela can. We as a global community are fortunate to have benefited from Mandela's greatness and will forever be awed by his brave journey," said Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"As an inspirational leader, Nelson Mandela brought about a better way of life for his people of South Africa and inspired millions throughout the world," said Senator Bob Corker.
"Our hearts are heavy with the news of Nelson Mandela's passing. A warrior for equality and a stalwart of global peace, Mr Mandela's legacy lives on, and he will be ever present as an example of the power of perseverance," said Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Senator Marco Rubio said the world has lost one of history's most important figures, though Mandela's example will live on for generations to come.
"Men and women striving for justice and fairness around the world have drawn inspiration from Nelson Mandela, and he showed South Africans and the entire world what the power of forgiveness truly means and can accomplish," he said.
"I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life. 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 told White House reporters soon after he was informed about the death of the former South African President.
Nelson Mandela passes away