President Barack Obama, whose arrival in South Africa was greeted with protests, said in a press conference today that Nelson Mandela, the ailing former South African president and anti-apartheid icon, is comparable to a pretty famous American.

Obama Compares Nelson Mandela to George Washington

U.S. President Barack Obama gestures during a town hall meeting with young African leaders at the University of Johannesburg Soweto on Saturday, June 29, 2013. The visit comes at a poignant time, with former South African president and anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela ailing in a Johannesburg hospital. (Credit: AP)

From ABC News:

“Mandela shows what was possible when a priority is placed on human dignity, respect for law, that all people are treated equally,” Obama said.

“And what Nelson Mandela also stood for is that the well-being of the country is more important than the interests of any one person,” Obama continued. “George Washington is admired because after two terms he said enough, I’m going back to being a citizen. There were no term limits, but he said I’m a citizen. I served my time. And it’s time for the next person, because that’s what democracy is about. And Mandela similarly was able to recognize that, despite how revered he was, that part of this transition process was greater than one person.”

You might recall that Mandela slammed the U.S. stance on Iraq in January 2003. CNN reported that at time Mandela stated “one power with a president who has no foresight, who cannot think properly, is now wanting to plunge the world into a holocaust.” Mandela added that “if there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America.”

(H/T: Weasel Zippers)