Mandela's Path, In His Own Words

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Nelson Mandela served as president of South Africa for five years, elected in the country's first free election with voters from all races. But in deciding not to seek a second term, Mandela set the stage for a modern democracy. On the day his successor took office, Mandela spoke about his country's path to joining the "community of free nations," and remembered how it had "averted a blood bath, which most observers believed inevitable."


Nelson Mandela served as president of South Africa for five years, elected in the country's first free election with voters from all races. But Mandela decided not to run for a second term. Instead, he set the stage for new elections and a modern democracy. So in June 1999, South Africans and world leaders gathered to inaugurate Thabo Mbeki, the second freely elected president of South Africa. Here are excerpts from Mandela's words that day.


NELSON MANDELA: Five years ago, the world welcomed South Africa to the community of free nation. South Africans, from every sector, had reached out across the divisions of centuries and averted a bloodbath which most observers believed inevitable. Our people have therefore confounded the prophets of doom and the skeptics not once but twice. And we are confident that they will do it over and over again.

For my part, I would want to say how privileged I feel to have participated in the achievements of our nation. During the past five years, I have been humbled to have an honor as their representative in the name of the principles for which our people stood. It has been an inspiration to serve a nation that has helped renew the world's hope that all conflicts, no matter how intractable are capable of peaceful resolution.

What I have experienced today and in days wherever I have been inside and outside our country during the past months, leads me to welcome the new status I have occupied since this morning. For you, you make me feel at home as part of an international community of men and women who have chosen the world as he theater of their operation in pursuit of justice.

Though I shall not be seen as much as I have been, I shall be amongst you and with you as we enter the African century, working together to make a reality of our hopes for a better world. Africa is rich with talented and experienced leaders who are rising to the challenges that we face. And I have not the slightest doubt that in due course, we will be able to bring peace to every inch of our continent because we have men and women who are talented to do so. I thank you.


RATH: Nelson Mandela, speaking in 1999 as he left public office. He died this Thursday at age 95. And for Saturday, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR West. I'm Arun Rath. Check out our weekly podcast. Search for WEEKENDS on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED on iTunes or check out the NPR app. Follow us on Twitter: @nprwatc. We are back tomorrow. Until then, thanks for listening and have a great night.

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