Reclaiming Our Way promoting the well-being of African American children & families


President Nelson Mandela’s (Second) Speech Before the U.S. Congress – October 6, 1994

On October 6, 1994, President Nelson Mandela addressed a joint session of Congress for the second time, imploring the United States, in many ways, to be the country that truly reflects the values it espouses, a country that allows all people to live with the full dignity of a human being and in which all people can fulfill their potential.  More importantly, he reminds the United States of its influence, and thus responsibility, for encouraging the same throughout the world.

In his address, Mandela speaks with ultimate humility, and is very benevolent in his praise of the aspirational idea of the United States, clearly aware of this country's complex relationship to both the construction and maintenance of the Apartheid state in South Africa, as well as (although extremely reluctantly) its demise over time.

When you begin to understand the fullness of Mandela's intellectual analysis and his thoughtfulness of strategy - both during his early African National Congress activist years and during his post-prison years, what you begin to hear in this speech is an elder African statesman calling out the hypocrisy of United States foreign policy, and calling it to task in honoring its own rhetoric on questions of democracy, human dignity and freedom.  While Mandela moved toward a political strategy in the later years of his life, he appears to have consistently maintained his independence of thought and was not shy about challenging US foreign policy.

Here's one selection from this approximately 50-minute speech.  The full speech follows just below.  Mandela's remarks begin right around the 11 minute mark.

It will perhaps come to be that this interconnectedness will produce among you, the distinguished members of these Houses of Congress, as among other actors on the world stage, policies which will spring from a common recognition of the fact that success or failure in the conduct of human affairs, can no longer be measured within the limited sphere defined by national boundaries that are the legacy of an ancient reality, away from which life itself has moved society a thousand leagues. If what we say is true, that manifestly, the world is one stage and the actions of all its inhabitants part of the same drama, does it not then follow that each one of us as nations, including yourselves, should begin to define the national interest to include the genuine happiness of others, however distant in time and space their domicile might be.



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