- 1998-09-23 (Creation)
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On receiving the Congressional Gold Medal ; U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS DELIVERS REMARKS AT PRESENTATION OF CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL TO SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT, NELSON MANDELA
23 September 1998
SPEAKERS: U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS (D-CA)
[*] WATERS: President Clinton, President Man
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U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS DELIVERS REMARKS AT PRESENTATION OF CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL TO SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT, NELSON MANDELA 23 September 1998 SPEAKERS: U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS (D-CA) [*] WATERS: President Clinton, President Mandela, first lady Graça Machel and other distinguished leaders, it is a distinct honor to take part in the presentation of this prestigious Congressional Gold Medal. I commend the gentleman from New York, Representative Houghton, for his leadership and efforts to see that President Mandela receive this award. Today marks another highlight in the world-defining moments of the release of Nelson Mandela from 27 years of imprisonment on Robben Island and the dismantlement of apartheid in South Africa. From me and the members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and freedom-loving men, women and children around the globe who joined with the brave and courageous suffering men, women and children of South Africa to fight against the unconscionable racist apartheid system of South Africa -- our lives took on a new meaning. We will never, ever be the same. During the struggle, as a member of the state legislature in California and a board member of Trans-Africa, working with Randall Robinson, we organized the free South Africa movement in the United States. Congressman Ronald Dellums and members of the CBC offered the sanctions legislation in Congress, and they won. I, then the state legislator, authored the divestment legislation, and after seven years of struggle, we won. We protested in front of the South African embassy. We were arrested. We organized marches throughout the country. We visited universities and campuses where students staged sit-ins and demonstrations. WATERS: We joined the struggle with a determination inspired by the long-suffering millions of black South Africans who were putting their lives on the line every day. As we worked, we were humbled and inspired by the pre-eminent warrior Nelson Mandela whose history in the struggle and fierce determination was unmatched by any human being in the history of mankind. Nelson Mandela led a long list of imprisoned freedom fighters -- Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Govan Mbeki, to name a few. We all embraced the ANC. We worked to break down the lies and distortions the world had been fed about the ANC. We took our leadership from the ANC. And when the ban was lifted on the African National Congress, many of us travelled from the United States to Durbin, South Africa. And we joined with anti-apartheid activists from around the world. We began to feel the power of our work inspired by the prince of peace, truth and justice, Nelson Mandela. When Nelson Mandela walked out of Robben Island, the world watched and witnessed a truly defining moment of the triumph of good over evil; freedom over oppression of the indomitable human spirit; the will and determination to live over the temptation to give in. Nelson Mandela and the people of South African fought for freedom with no money, no guns, no government, no ships, no planes. School children in Soweto died in the struggle. Babies died in the bantustans. Millions were brutalized. But Nelson Mandela never gave in. He led us all. His life stands as a shining example of what we could be, what we should be. Nelson Mandela is truly the voice and symbol of hope, fairness and justice. On Nelson Mandela's first visit to the United States, I led the organization of the effort to receive him in Los Angeles. We filled the coliseum with over 90,000 people who joined in a celebration I shall never forget. I take personal pride in joining with Nelson Mandela today. Nelson Mandela strengthened my resolve to forever fight against the evils of racism and discrimination wherever it pops its ugly head. He taught me... (APPLAUSE) He taught me no fight is too tough for justice, no struggle too long for equality, no cause is greater than the struggle for freedom. Today, I stand here as a proud African-American woman with the son of our ancestors as we present him with the highest recognition bestowed to anyone by the Congress of the United States of America. I stand here as a proud member of the most powerful government in the world. I pray our symbolism today with Mandela will match our actions tomorrow. I pray the meaning of this moment... (APPLAUSE) I pray the meaning of this moment will not be lost on my colleagues here in Congress. I pray we will all be better, more thoughtful forever, and most just in our work, because we have been touched by Nelson Mandela. (APPLAUSE) COPYRIGHT 1998 BY FEDERAL DOCUMENT CLEARING HOUSE, INC. Author not available, U.S. REPRESENTATIVE MAXINE WATERS (D-CA) DELIVERS REMARKS AT PRESENTATION OF CONGRESSIONAL GOLD MEDAL TO SOUTH AFRICAN PRESIDENT NELSON MANDELA, Washington Transcript Service, 09-23-1998.
Distinguished Members of the Senate and the House;
Ladies and Gentlemen
It has been my great privilege to serve a people whose bondage to an inhuman system evoked the solidarity of all those who love freedom and justice; a people whose triumph over the divisions of racist doctrine has given new life to humanity's hopes for a world without hatred or discrimination.
I am conscious that in bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal upon me, you are evoking these bonds between our nations, and paying tribute to the whole South African nation for its achievements in realising our shared ideals.
It is in that spirit that I humbly accept the award, aware at the same time of the great honour you do me, by using me as the vehicle of a unique distinction conferred by this hallowed institution of American democracy.
As one who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of unity, I am moved by the consensus in your nation's regard for the achievements of my people.
And I feel great pride in the fact that to the few citizens of other countries who have received this high honour, the name of an African is now added.
If today the people of South Africa are free at last to address their basic needs; if the countries of southern Africa have the opportunity to realise the potential for development through co-operation; if Africa can devote all her energies and resources to her reconstruction; then it is not least because the American people identified with and lent their support to the struggle to end apartheid, including critically through action by this Congress.
It is also because of the actions of countless ordinary American citizens who responded to the call to join the world-wide anti-apartheid campaign; or who have since joined hands with us as we strive to make a living reality of our vision of a better life for all South Africans.
Among those we remember today is young Amy Biehl. She made our aspirations her own, and lost her life in the turmoil of our transition, as the new South Africa struggled to be born in the dying moments of apartheid.
Through her, our peoples have also shared the pain of confronting a terrible past as we take the path towards the reconciliation and healing of our nation.
In all these ways the United States and its people have played a significant role in the birth of our new nation. Since the achievement of democracy the relations between our countries have been steadily growing.
We appreciate the commitment to our future that was embodied in the decision to set up the Bi-National Commission, and that has informed the Commission's contribution to the systematic development of an all-round relationship between our countries.
The highly successful State Visit by President Clinton to South Africa in March this year testified to the strength of our relationship.
The warm welcome he received from our people speaks of the special place that the people of the United States occupy in the hearts of South Africans.
The breadth of our relationship makes the United States an indispensable partner in bringing material improvements in the lives of our people, especially the poor, without which our democracy would remain a hollow shell and our stability fragile.
Yet we need to remind ourselves that, as much as we have made progress in changing our peoples lives for the better, the needs that must be met in our country, our region and our continent are immense.
Though we are long past blaming our past for our problems, it does need to be acknowledged that the imbalances and inequities bequeathed to us by the history of Africa and South Africa, are beyond our capacity to meet on our own.
They call for a partnership of Africa and the United States, developing and developed countries, in bringing about a transfer of resources and addressing the imbalances and disparities which have been so dramatically exposed in the turmoil in the world economic system.
In the common agenda that we seek to develop with you, are such issues as increased aid; the rescheduling of the burden of external debt; improved access to markets for the products of developing countries.
It includes also the democratisation of the institutions of international governance and the redirection of the world's trade and financial systems so that they better reflect the needs of the poor.
The recognition that even the most powerful economy in the world is not immune from the consequences of defects in the global economic system, so forcefully articulated recently by your own President, indicates to us that the needs of developing countries, and of Africa in particular, will have an understanding hearing in Washington.
It adds to our confidence that the United States will be in the forefront of the supporters of Africa's struggle to bring about her renaissance.
Honourable Members, I do not expect to be granted again the privilege of addressing the elected representatives of the United States of America. I am profoundly grateful to have been allowed to do so in the last months of my public life.
Though the challenges of the present time for our country, our continent and the world, are greater than those we have already overcome, we face the future with confidence.
We do so because, despite the difficulties and the tensions that confront us, there is in all of us the capacity to touch one another's hearts across oceans and continents.
The award with which you honour me today is an expression of the common humanity that binds us one person to another, nation to nation, and people of the North to people of the South.
I receive it with pride, as a symbol of partnership for peace, prosperity and equity as we enter the new millennium. I thank you.