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Remarks at a Dinner Hosted by President Nelson Mandela of South Africa in Somerset West

March 27, 1998

Thank you very much. Mr. President, Mr. Deputy President, Ministers, Members of Parliament, members of the judiciary, Your Majesties, Your Excellencies, Archbishop Tutu, ladies and gentlemen. First let me thank you for your hospitality to Hillary and me and our delegation. We have had a wonderful time in South Africa.

And I thank you, Mr. President, for the power of your leadership and the power of your example. Today when we toured Robben Island, I was reminded again that though you were locked in prison for a long time, you opened others' minds and hearts. You helped to educate your fellow inmates; you kindled the flame of humanity in your jailers. You planted a garden in the courtyard of Robben Island because of your faith in renewal. I can't imagine anyone I would rather receive an Order of Good Hope from than you.

And when, after 10,000 days of captivity, the gates of prison were opened, you emerged to face your nation unbitter and unbroken. That is the condition I hope the tent will maintain. [Laughter]

And truly you have built a new South Africa where all its people have a stake in the future. The symbols of that new South Africa are all around us. From your multiracial Parliament where I was honored to speak yesterday, to flourishing businesses where all races work side by side, to the very banquet we attend tonight, the people who work, the people who are seated, all of us here together, South Africa is a monument to the power of reconciliation. [Applause] Thank you.

Tonight we celebrate all you have accomplished. We pledge the partnership and friendship of the United States for the daunting work ahead, for seizing the challenges and the opportunities that face you today and in the century just around the corner.

I remember when we hosted the Olympic games in Atlanta in 1996. On the final day, the first black South African ever to win a gold medal in Olympic competition, Josia Thugwane, dedicated his victory to his country and to President Mandela. I think it is worth recalling that his victory came in the marathon.

President Mandela has won a great victory in what is the longest marathon of the 20th century. But now it is important that you not lose the conviction, the energy, the sheer joy of daily living which accompanied your freedom, for the challenges you face also require a marathon.

One of our country's most eloquent political leaders, Mario Cuomo, whose son now serves in my Cabinet, once said that in democracies we campaign in poetry, but we govern in prose. It is a marathon.

I come to say that the United States admires not only the leader but the people of South Africa, and we look forward to running that marathon with you. Let us not grow weary; let us never lose heart. Let us have confidence that the people can find the way.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a toast to the President and the people of South Africa.

NOTE: The President spoke at approximately 8:15 p.m. at the Vergelegen Estates. In his remarks, he referred to Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and Episcopal Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa.

William J. Clinton, Remarks at a Dinner Hosted by President Nelson Mandela of South Africa in Somerset West Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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