Barack Obama breaks Twitter record for most popular tweet

More than 3 million people have liked former president's Nelson Mandela quote

barack obama
Barack Obama speaks at the University of Chicago
(Image credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images)

A Barack Obama tweet quoting Nelson Mandela's plea for love and tolerance has broken a Twitter record for most likes, days after a woman was killed while protesting a far-right rally.

The former president has kept his Twitter activity to a minimum since leaving office in January, with most of his comments since then focussed on his family, charity work or national holidays and awareness campaigns.

However, on Sunday, Obama used the platform to share Mandela's famous adage, taken from his 1994 memoir Long Walk To Freedom.

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"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion," the quote reads. "People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."

The first part of the three-tweet chain has now been liked more than three million times, making it the most-liked tweet in Twitter's 11-year history.

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Many commentators saw the tweet as a response to the fallout from a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last week, where clashes between marchers and counter-protesters culminated with a suspected white nationalist ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing 32-year-old activist Heather Heyer.

President Donald Trump initially refused to condemn white supremacists directly, with his lukewarm response fuelling fears on the left that bigotry is gaining a worrying foothold in the American mainstream.

Obama certainly knows how to strike a chord with Twitter users. Six of the ten most-liked tweets of all time were penned by the former president, including one he posted last month in tribute to John McCain following the 80-year-old senator's brain cancer diagnosis.

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The previous record-holder for the highest number of likes was a tweet sent by pop singer Ariana Grande after 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at the Manchester Arena following a Grande concert on 22 May.

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Obama's politically charged tweet and Grande's emotional response to terrorist violence could not be more different from the third most-liked tweet, Ellen DeGeneres' legendary Oscar selfie.

At the 2014 Academy Awards, DeGeneres managed to corral a galaxy of stars including Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence and Meryl Streep together for a group shot taken at arm's length by Bradley Cooper, with the resulting photo instantly crowned the greatest selfie of all time.

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However, DeGeneres can still claim the record for the most retweets - the Oscar selfie has been shared more than 3.4 million times, compared to 1.2 million for Obama's tweet.

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