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Address by President Nelson Mandela before a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress

October 06, 1994

[Congressional Record: October 6, 1994] From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access []



Mr. MANDELA. Mr. Speaker, Mr. President, Members of Congress, this we understand fully, that it is given to very few, who came from outside the shores of this country, to stand in this lofty Chamber to address you, the law-makers of the United States of America.

And so we speak today feeling the great weight of an extraordinary and elevating circumstance that you have extended this rare honour to us twice in our lifetime in a period of less than half-a-decade.

We extend our humble thanks to you all and to the millions of people you represent. We express our gratitude that you have thus, as an Irish patriot once said, given to a subaltern all the tribute that is due to a superior.

When last we were here, we came to thank you for the things you had done which had flung open the prison gates of our troubled land and enabled the leaders of our enslaved people to tread the soil of our country unhindered.

We came to salute you for the place you had taken in the universal assault on apartheid, which had made it possible that once more the authentic organisations of our people should speak for the people freely and without seeking the permission of those who sought to ensure that the people had no voice except the voice of subservice.

We came also to share with you our dreams of genuine independence, democracy and the emanicipation of all our people, you whose forebears had, at earlier times, dreamt of independence, of democracy and of the emancipation of all the people of these United States.

The time that has passed since then has given it to us to come back to you to speak not of a dream deferred, of which your fellow- countryman Langston Hughes spoke.

The history that cannot be unmade has enabled us to repeat in this Chamber the poetry of the triumph of the oppressed.

For, as the representatives of centuries of white minority rule bowed to the results of the democratic process, the people did, like your fellow-countryman, Martin Luther King Jr, cry out: "Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last."

We were moved that even at that first moment of celebration, representatives of the American people were present among us to help us sing and louder sing of freedom, justice and peace.

We were moved because you, like the great humanity to which we all belong, had committed your own human and material resources to ensure that for the first time in the entire history of our country, the people had the possibility to elect a government of their choice, without let or hindrance.

When the proclamation rang out that the elections had in the substance been free and fair, we knew that we could proudly return to these shores to say: Dear friends, brothers and sisters, your wishes and ours have been realised; democracy has won the day.

We were humbled and inspired that you honoured us again by sending a delegation of eminent Americans to join us at our inauguration.

As we began our new journey into a new future, we took the presence in our country, of so weighty a group of emissaries of what is good in the American consciousness, to be a declaration which none could either forget or ignore, that you stand by our young democracy and commit your prayers to its everlasting success.

Along the uneasy road to the victory of the cause of democracy and fundamental human rights, we, like the great revolutionaries who were the founders of this Republic, have had to rest the capacity of our people to break new ground in the history of human evolution.

Principal among these was, on the one hand, the willingness of the erstwhile minority rules to concede political power without first resorting to such resistance as would reduce our country to a wasteland.

On the other, was the ability of the oppressed majority to forgive and accept a shared destiny with those who had enslaved them.

That both black and white in our country can today say we are to one another brother and sister, a united rainbow nation that derives its strength from the bonding of its many races and colours, constitutes a celebration of the oneness of the human race.

It represents the triumph of that intangible nobility of spirit which, in a divided and unequal world, makes for peace and friendship among the peoples.

At the end, the bloodletting stopped. At the end, goodwill prevailed. At the end, the overwhelming majority, both black and white, decided to invest in peace.

In the end, it is all this that the ceremonial drums sought to salute as they throbbed to a rhythm both African and universal.

But in the fullness of time, they too ceased to beat. Their powerful rhythms have been replaced by the great pulsations which represent and reflect a new society in formation. New challenges stand ahead of us.

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