US President Barack Obama is due land in South Africa today and there has been lots of speculation as to whether he will visit an ailing Nelson Mandela. Most people don’t know about the time they met in 2005…when Obama was relatively unknown junior senator and it almost didn’t happen. Mandela’s personal assistant, Zelda La Grange, was skeptical as to who Obama was, but eventually agreed to a courtesy call where Obama’s driver snapped this rare image which now sits on his desk in the Oval Office. Another copy signed by Obama was sent to Mandela with the inscription “Nelson Mandela – An inspiration to us all!”
And here’s the story:
“The two have met in person only once, in a spontaneous encounter in Washington in 2005, when Mr. Mandela was in town and was urged by advisers to take a few minutes to meet a rising Democratic senator named Barack Obama.
Mr. Obama was in a car, on the way to a meeting, but diverted to the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown, where Mr. Mandela was staying. The conversation produced a lasting image of Mr. Obama, in silhouette, standing next to a reclining Mr. Mandela.
David Katz, Mr. Obama’s driver and personal aide at the time, took the photo, a copy of which now sits in Mr. Mandela’s foundation office. Another copy is on Mr. Obama’s desk in the Oval Office.
“He was subdued and reflective and honored to have met a man like Nelson Mandela,” Mr. Katz recalled of the young senator’s demeanor after the five-minute exchange. “He was processing the experience, processing the history.” [NY Times]