Uhuru-Spirit News


December 08, 2013 | UhuruSpirit

U.S. President Barack Obama looks up at the sky at sunset as he disembarks from Air Force One upon arriving at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle, Washington on Nov. 24, 2013. Photographer: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

For U.S. politicians, civil rights leaders, celebrities and business leaders with a connection to Nelson Mandela, there’s no more prestigious way to pay their respects at his memorial than to arrive in South Africa on Air Force One with President Barack Obama.

It’s an exclusive invitation, and for all but a few who’ve been at the pinnacle of power an impossible one.

“There are tons of people that want to go,” said Dan K. Rosenthal, 47, who served as President Bill Clinton’s director of advance from 1997 to 2000 and deputy director in 1995 when Clinton traveled to the funeral of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “Everyone, given their druthers, would prefer to fly with the president of the United States.”

The White House frequently assembles delegations for overseas events including memorial services, inaugurations and other official functions. The goal is a mix of politicians, relevant members of civilian society, and public luminaries. This time, the White House is limiting the size of the delegation by request of the South African government, which must handle a worldwide influx of dignitaries who want to be at FNB Stadium in Johannesburg for tomorrow’s memorial service, said a White House official familiar who asked for anonymity to discuss the deliberations.

That means corporate CEOs with ties to South Africa or Mandela won’t be traveling today on Air Force One. Nor will celebrities with civil rights ties, such as Oprah Winfrey or actor Morgan Freeman, who has portrayed Mandela in film. Some public figures may travel later to attend the burial service on Dec. 15 in Mandela’s home town of Qunu. - Bloomberg

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