From the streets of Pretoria to Twitter and even aboard the International Space Station, people around the world and beyond it came together to celebrate legendary former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela as he turned 95 years old .
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory in South Africa urged people around the world to celebrate the fifth “Nelson Mandela International Day” by devoting themselves to the service of others. The organization released a video featuring dignitaries including the Dalai Lama, Bill and Hillary Clinton, and Desmond Tutu along with astronauts on board the International Space Station, urging people to devote 67 minutes to the service of others.
President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama shared their warm wishes for Mandela in a statement, reflecting on their recent visit to his cell on Robben Island.
“On behalf of our family and the people of the United States, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes and prayers to Nelson Mandela on the occasion of his 95th birthday, as well as to Graça Machel, the Mandela family, and the government and people of South Africa as they mark the fifth annual Nelson Mandela International Day,” the statement read. “Our family was deeply moved by our visit to Madiba’s former cell on Robben Island during our recent trip to South Africa, and we will forever draw strength and inspiration from his extraordinary example of moral courage, kindness, and humility.”
After spending nearly six weeks in a Pretoria hospital, much of it in critical condition, Mandela’s health showed signs of improvement on his birthday, according to the South African government.
“Madiba remains in hospital in Pretoria but his doctors have confirmed that his health is steadily improving,” the government said in a statement.
Madiba’s birthday even brought the usual partisan battles in the U.S. Congress to a pause Thursday morning, as lawmakers came together to honor the leader, including the House and Senate leadership of both parties.