President Obama shared a brief handshake with Cuban President Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial service on Tuesday, in a moment fraught with symbolism and history.
"This wasn't a pre-planned encounter," said an administration official. "Above all else, today is about honoring Nelson Mandela, and that was the president's singular focus at the memorial service. We appreciate that people from all over the world are participating in this ceremony."
The administration official also noted that in his remarks, Obama urged world leaders to honor Mandela's struggle for freedom by upholding basic human rights within their own country.
"There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba's struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people," Obama said. "And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard."