Obama leaves for South Africa for Mandela memorial

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama has taken off for South Africa to attend a national memorial service for Nelson Mandela.

Obama and his wife, Michelle, boarded Air Force One under cold, rainy skies this morning for the long flight.

Former President George W. Bush was already on board, along with former first ladies Laura Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Bill Clinton is traveling separately from Rio de Janeiro, where he's been attending a Clinton Global Initiative event. And former President Jimmy Carter is planning to join the group in Johannesburg.

The only living U.S. president who won't attend is George H.W. Bush. His spokesman says the 89-year-old is no longer able to travel long distances.

The American leaders will join dozens of other dignitaries and tens of thousands of mourners at the memorial service at a stadium in Johannesburg.

Mandela will be buried next week, after a state funeral in his home town.

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044-c-21-(Mark Smith, AP White House correspondent)-"library in Texas"-AP White House Correspondent Mark Smith reports the ceremonies honoring Nelson Mandela will be another meeting of the "president's club." (9 Dec 2013)

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149-r-26-(Sound of children singing South African national anthem, at Nelson Mandela's former home in Soweto)--Sound of some of the youngest residents of the Orlando Children's Home singing the South African national anthem as a tribute at Nelson Mandela's former home in Soweto. (9 Dec 2013)

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APPHOTO MDJL101: President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama, waves prior to boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, before traveling to South Africa for a memorial service in honor of Nelson Mandela. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (9 Dec 2013)

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