Remarks at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit

Ambassador Terence P. McCulley
U.S. Senior Advisor for Africa
New York City
October 2, 2018


Thank you, Mr. President.

It is a great honor to be here today as we celebrate the life and accomplishments of Nelson Mandela, who devoted almost 70 years of his life to helping, transform South Africa into a better version of itself, and who left the world with a legacy to cherish and remember.

As one of the twentieth century’s greatest visionaries, Nelson Mandela demonstrated to the world the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity. His legacy transcends boundaries and will continue to bring people closer together for generations to come in the fight for justice and equality around the world.

Nelson Mandela was no stranger to immense adversity and hardship, and yet, he never stopped pursuing the justice and equality that he knew all people deserved. Mandela fought to defend universal human dignity and to create a brighter future for succeeding generations.

This Summit is a powerful manifestation of President Mandela’s vision of the world coming together and recognizing, amidst our profound disagreements, the universality of our common cause to build a better future for humankind. Through holding this event, we are better and more appropriately able to honor the memory of Nelson Mandela by improving the world.

Despite decades of imprisonment, Nelson Mandela’s belief in freedom and human dignity was unbreakable. He maintained his faith – not only in his own cause, but in the humanity of his fellow countrymen, including his oppressors.

President Mandela demonstrated that, even after enduring unimaginable adversity, great leaders can govern with fairness and honesty and build a better future for their countries and for humankind.

President Mandela also did not shrink from shining a spotlight on corruption and abuse of power. In April of 1964, in his famous “I Am Prepared to Die” speech, given from the defense dock in a trial where he faced the real possibility of a death sentence, he publicly indicted a corrupt and unjust system of state-sponsored oppression. He knew instinctively that focusing public attention on oppression and injustice would turn opinion toward the peacemaker and the human rights activist. He knew that the inherent fairness and decency of informed human beings would lead to the defeat of tyranny, the spread of democracy, and the development of strong, just institutions that preserve the rights of every citizen.

We have expressed our concerns with parts of the Political Declaration that this Summit will produce, and we will continue to share our views on a host of issues discussed in the weeks to come. But let us proceed under the wisdom of Mandela’s legacy to elevate the objectives of our dialogue.

Through Nelson Mandela’s example, we know that change can occur when actions and messages of respect and peace are used instead of violence and division. May we ever strive to follow and continue to learn from Nelson Mandela on how we should forgive the past and forge ahead to a future where all mankind can share rights and privileges that are not solely reserved for the few. Nelson Mandela was a beacon of hope in this world and a testament to the fact that peace and profound growth are possible anywhere.

Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates, in honor of the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, we join our fellow delegates in reflecting on his legacy of striving for progress, peace, justice, and equality for all.

Thank you.