Some may remember Obama as Mandela's spiritual son, our president riding on his own soaring rhetoric at that stadium, wrapping himself in Mandela's mantle, dreaming of the father of the new South Africa.
And others will seize on Obama shaking hands with the executioner of Cuba, our president bowing to Raul Castro just as he once bowed to the lords of the Chicago Democratic Machine before beginning his climb.
But those images — Obama riding on his magic rhetorical carpet, reaching for dreams of Mandela, or his clasping of the right hand of Fidel Castro's demonic brother — are about politics.
But there's another image from the memorial that defines Obama. It has nothing to do with ideology.
A news photographer captured the president sitting with the prime ministers of Great Britain and Denmark. He has a cellphone in his hand. The three of them are grinning.
First lady Michelle Obama sits off to the side, somber, dignified, as the world remembers Mandela. Yet next to her like some goofy adolescent who hasn't yet been taught how to behave properly at a memorial service — her husband — is snapping a memorial to himself.
That's what he's being called now, and it blew up on the Twitterverse. It's not the most compelling photojournalism in history. But it is clear, and as pointed as a pin.
Obama and Denmark's Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt extend their arms, hands on the cellphone, to take the self-portrait. British PM David Cameron leans in. They're as bubbly as school kids ordering a happy meal.
Why would a president take a selfie at a memorial for Mandela? Because it wasn't about Mandela.
It was about Barack.
And isn't it always about Barack?
Earlier, Obama sauntered through the crowd, shaking hands, waving, welcoming the love bath they gave him. He wasn't mourning as much as he was campaigning for adoration, a man determined to receive his due.
And then came the presidential selfie.
It fits into a pattern, of almost uncontrollable presidential selfieism.
A few days ago, when Mandela passed away at 95, Obama's media managers tweeted a photograph. You'd think he'd tweet a photograph of Mandela. But it wasn't of Mandela.
It was of Obama in Mandela's former prison cell, the president having gone to the prison because he couldn't get that photo op he wanted with the ailing South African during Obama's $100 million African vacation.
Obama as Mandela.
And then there was Obama as Rosa Parks.