President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama left for Johannesburg, South Africa, Monday morning to attend a memorial service for Nelson Mandela, the freedom fighter and first black president of South Africa, who died Thursday.
The Obamas were joined on Air Force One by former President George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to a White House pool report. Former President Bill Clinton and former President Jimmy Carter were not on the jet, but are expected to attend the service for Mandela.
The White House announced the trip late Saturday, saying, "The president and the first lady will travel to Johannesburg, South Africa to attend the national memorial service for former President Mandela."
Mandela, who endured 27 years of imprisonment under the minority white ruling regime in South Africa before being released and democratically elected president, is scheduled to be memorialized Tuesday at the 95,000-seat FNB Stadium in Johannesburg.
Obama reflected on Mandela's legacy Thursday, in a brief statement with reporters at the White House.
"I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," he said. "The first thing I ever did that involved an issue or policy or politics was a protest against apartheid. 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 are guided by their hopes and not by their fears."
Later this week, Mandela will lie in state in a Pretoria city hall for three days, according to reports, before his official funeral, scheduled for Dec. 15.