Our partners at the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Graça Machel, Madiba's wife, had invited Barack Obama to South Africa to give this very special public lecture on the eve of what would have been Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela's 100th Birthday. We were part of a huge, receptive audience of about 15 000 listening intently to a wide ranging speech by President Obama, who many also call one of the greatest orators of our era. Barack Obama moved us deeply with his message of wisdom and activism, of solidarity, courage and hope. He enlightened his audience with important references to history and research, and he provided ample food for thought with his observations, analysis and reflections.
He made a compelling case for the need to defend and strengthen democracy, to fight racism and other systems of prejudice and extreme structural inequality. He emphasised that we must develop innovative, inclusive models of economic growth and ensure good governance in order to make a dignified life possible for all. He also argued that the wisdom of the collective is what we need, he appealed to us to cultivate an open mind and an open heart - and he urged us to withstand the temptations of cynicism and of disengagement.
"So on Madiba’s 100th birthday, we now stand at a crossroads – a moment in time at which two very different visions of humanity’s future compete for the hearts and the minds of citizens around the world. Two different stories, two different narratives about who we are and who we should be. How should we respond? Should we see that wave of hope that we felt with Madiba’s release from prison, from the Berlin Wall coming down – should we see that hope that we had as naïve and misguided? Should we understand the last 25 years of global integration as nothing more than a detour from the previous inevitable cycle of history – where might makes right, and politics is a hostile competition between tribes and races and religions, and nations compete in a zero-sum game, constantly teetering on the edge of conflict until full-blown war breaks out? Is that what we think? Let me tell you what I believe. I believe in Nelson Mandela’s vision. I believe in a vision shared by Gandhi and King and Abraham Lincoln. I believe in a vision of equality and justice and freedom and multi-racial democracy, built on the premise that all people are created equal, and they’re endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And I believe that a world governed by such principles is possible and that it can achieve more peace and more cooperation in pursuit of a common good. That’s what I believe." (President Barack Obama, Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture)
President Obama raised some of the most important questions of our times, and he provided his answers. They will continue to inform and inspire millions of people in South Africa and abroad in their quest to make this world a better place, and they will guide many on their path to "live the legacy" of Nelson Mandela. This historic speech by President Barack Obama truly must be read and re-read to be fully appreciated. Find a complete transcript of the speech in this article: www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2018-07-18-obamas-speech-at-the-2018-nelson-mandela-annual-lecture/
You can view the stream of the Lecture at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6cWYiJKCWdI