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Lawmakers celebrate Mandela's life on birthday

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DONNA CASSATA | July 18, 2013 11:41 AM EST | AP


WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are celebrating the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela on the anti-apartheid leader's 95th birthday.

Republican and Democratic leaders joined in the Capitol's Emancipation Hall Thursday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, representatives of the Free South Africa Movement and other guests. Mandela has been in a Pretoria hospital since early June.

Republican Speaker John Boehner calls Mandela a "remarkable statesman." Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid describes him as the George Washington of South Africa.

Lawmakers took turns reading excerpts of Mandela's writings at moments in his life – as prisoner, freedom fighter, Nobel Peace prize winner and South Africa president.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi recalls the emotions when Mandela addressed Congress, once in 1990 and four years later.