Item 1410 - Acceptance speech by Nelson Mandela on receiving an honorary doctorate from Ryerson University November 2001

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ZA COM MR-S-1410


Acceptance speech by Nelson Mandela on receiving an honorary doctorate from Ryerson University November 2001


  • 2001-11-17 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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  • English

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We are humbled by the honour that you bestow on us this morning.

We are aware of the proud educational history of this institution, and greatly impressed and inspired by its commitment to make its educational activities directly in service of societal needs.

We come from a country quite recently emerged from an era and political regime in which all of its major social institutions were put to serve sectional minority interests and not those of broader society.

Today as we set about reconstructing our society we battle the terrible legacy of a dispensation that deliberately used schools and educational institutions to under-develop the majority of the population through inferior education.

One of the major challenges we face is to accelerate dramatically the skills achievement of the population in areas such as science, technology and the economic sciences.

The history of this institution, set up after the Second World War to cater for the education and training of returning soldiers, is an inspiring example to us. Its focus on technological education of quality sets an example that we can follow, given our own societal needs and priorities.
It is for those reasons, amongst others, that we are so particularly proud to be admitted to the ranks of honorary alumni of this university.

And, on a very personal level, to be accorded that honour together with a woman who occupies a special place in my life and an even more special one in my esteem, makes of this an uniquely privileged and appreciated occasion.

I should add that it is my experience that the woman I am referring to, so often steals my thunder and outperforms me that I must thank the university most sincerely for on this one occasion suggesting to her that I may be her equal! This is, apart from all other dimensions, a very important contribution to bringing equality to our marriage.

I humbly accept the honour you bestow on me, and I do so in celebration of three sectors, areas and activities of society I regard as being crucial to sustainable human development: children and youth, education, and the pursuit of universal peace.

We have spent the last two years giving much of our time and energy to the process of seeking a peaceful settlement in the Central African country of Burundi. Over the last decade more than a quarter million people died in the conflict that has been raging there. The social and economic infrastructure of what was in any case a very poor country had been devastated in these conflicts. And as always in such situations, it was the most vulnerable who suffered most - women, the aged, the handicapped, youth and children.

It is a source of gratification and hope that we can report substantial progress in that peace process, with a transitional government of national unity having been installed in that tragically divided society.

Peace and stability are prerequisites, in Burundi as anywhere else in the world, for human beings to have the conditions in which they can live lives of dignity and have the opportunities to realise their human potential. The world needs to combine its efforts and energies to bring peace to all the troubled parts of our planet. Our own humble efforts in Burundi we saw as a modest contribution to what should be a global quest for lasting peace.

In a country as devastated as Burundi - and it is by far not unique in this regard - the future now hinges around how well they, and we all, look after and nurture the children and youth. It is profoundly sad to go around that country and observe how war and killing had impacted upon children.

As in many parts of the African continent and elsewhere the AIDS pandemic had hit at the heart of Burundian society. And once more, children are amongst those that carry the brunt of suffering and social exposure.

We have with the assistance of world leaders and some major international agencies been able to mobilise considerable pledges towards the reconstruction and development of Burundian society. Once more, that effort stands as an example of us taking global responsibility for each other, no matter where such need exists.

Education will be the key element to success for the effort at social and economic reconstruction. We have, for example, arranged with various countries and international agencies, for young people from Burundi to be taken for education and training to equip them for dealing with those developmental challenges.

A large proportion of those efforts and energies will have to go towards education at a most basic level. Investment in the children of that society is, like elsewhere, the key to sustainable development. Burundi shall rise from the ashes of its conflict and develop to be a place of security and opportunity for its people, if it looks after and nurture its children. And if the international community continues to generously come to its assistance. And if much of that effort goes into education that meets the societal needs and priorities of the country.

Ryerson University is a commendable example of education of quality being geared to the needs of society and community.

We thank you for this great honour. We dedicate it to the children and youth of that small African country, Burundi, that has taken a courageous step towards peace; and to the children and youth of the world, who represents our hopes for a better future.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From hard drive ; Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation Prof J Gerwel. Accessioned on 02/02/2010 by Zintle Bambata




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