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On Friday, hours after it was confirmed that Boseman died at the age of 43 following a private battle with colon cancer, the Obamas penned a pair of moving tributes as they reflected on the late actor’s tremendous strength.
“Chadwick came to the White House to work with kids when he was playing Jackie Robinson. You could tell right away that he was blessed,” the former president wrote on social media, alongside a pair of photos from the 2016 White House visit.
“To be young, gifted, and Black; to use that power to give them heroes to look up to; to do it all while in pain – what a use of his years,” Obama added.
That year, Boseman was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer, according to his family. Throughout the rest of his life, he would continue to work “during and between countless surgeries and chemotherapy."
The former first lady also reflected on Boseman’s life, noting that like some of the notable men that he portrayed on film, the late actor deserves to be remembered as one of the greats.
“Only Chadwick could embody Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, and T’Challa,” Mrs. Obama wrote, referencing his Black Panther character. “He, too, knew what it meant to persevere. To summon real strength.”
“And he belongs right there with them as a hero—for Black kids and for all our kids. There’s no better gift to give our world,” she added alongside an image of the pair from a special screening 42, in which Boseman starred as baseball trailblazer Jackie Robinson.
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images Chadwick Boseman
Afterward, the mother of two led a group of 80 high school and college students in a workshop, where she reflected on why the film was so important — and why the film’s stars, including Boseman, should be an example to them.
“This isn’t just about watching a wonderful movie about an important moment in history, this is about helping all of you believe that you can write your own history,” she said. "You have to pick up yourself when somebody knocks you down — because you will get knocked down. But to do all of that, you have to put the work in.”
“It took Chadwick 10 years of hard work before landing his first starring role. So this stuff doesn't come easy,” the Becoming author added. “ If you gain nothing from this movie or any of our lives, there is no magic. It takes grit. It takes determination and a whole lot of hard work. And as you know in the movie, it takes guts.”
News of Boseman's death was confirmed by his family on Friday.
"It is with immeasurable grief that we confirm the passing of Chadwick Boseman,” his family wrote in a statement on social media. “Chadwick was diagnosed with stage III colon cancer in 2016, and battled with it these last 4 years as it progressed to stage IV.”
"A true fighter, Chadwick persevered through it all, and brought you many of the films you have come to love so much,” the statement continued, noting that “It was the honor of his career to bring King T’Challa to life in Black Panther."