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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 4, 1994
                         AT ARRIVAL CEREMONY
                            The South Lawn   

11:15 A.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Mandela, members of the South African delegation, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans. We are here to welcome Nelson Mandela back to the United States; but, first, to the United States as the President of his nation. (Applause.)

Now, all over the world, there are three words which, spoken together, express the triumph of freedom, democracy and hope for the future. They are "President Nelson Mandela." (Applause.) In you, sir, we see proof that the human spirit can never be crushed. For a half century, you pursued your ideals, keeping your promise never to surrender, risking all, despite danger. For 27 years, we watched you from your prison cell inspire millions of your people with your spirit and your words. And when you emerged, instead of retribution for past wrong, you sought peace and freedom and equality for your people.

You are living proof that the forces of justice and reconciliation can bridge any divide. (Applause.) Every day, you teach the world that those who build triumph over those who tear down; that those who tear down, that those who unite can actually prevail over those who would divide. Your presence here and the growth of a new South Africa are stern rebukes to both the destroyers and the cynics of this world.

The struggle in South Africa has always had a special place in the heart of America. For, after all, we fought our own most terrible war here in our own land over slavery. And our own civil rights movement has taken strength and inspiration from, and given aid to your fight for liberty. Americans take great pride in the role we played in helping to overturn apartheid, and in supporting the free elections which produced your presidency. (Applause.)

Now we are working with you to build the new South Africa. The challenges you face -- poverty, joblessness, homelessness, the despair borne of long years of deprivation -- are as large as they are difficult. But we know you will forge ahead, and we know that we, here in the United States, will also be better for your progress for a thriving South Africa, spurring greater prosperity throughout the region, opening new markets. That makes us more prosperous, too. And a stable and democratic South Africa, working with its neighbors to restore and maintain the peace; that makes us more secure as well. And perhaps most important of all, in this age of ethnic, religious and racial strife the world over, you can be our partner and, together, our two nations can show the world that true strength is found when we come together despite our differences.

We know, and you know, that diversity and progress can go hand-in-hand. Indeed, that they must do so if we are to give all our people the chance to fulfill their God-given potential.

Mr. President, you have brought forth a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to equality. Today, the American people welcome you here, and we salute your stunning achievement. We pledge, as you have pledged -- (applause) -- that we will walk every mile with you, and that we will not grow weary on the way.

I say to all of you here, "Nkosi, sikelele Africa." God bless Africa, and God bless America. (Applause.)

PRESIDENT MANDELA: South Africa is located many thousands of miles away from the United States. What happens there ought to be no interest to the people of this country. You fought the battles of freedom and won your independence. But a striking feature of what is happening today is that in almost every country men and women have emerged who will regard the entire world -- every part of the globe -- as the battlefield for their activities in the fight for the preservation of human rights. That fight is joined by people across the seas in whatever area of the world there is suppression of human rights. We are the beneficiaries of the generations that have chosen the world as the theater of their operations.

The people of the United States, black and white, have joined in the battle to liberate South Africa. The people of South Africa, after many years of peaceful struggle, when all channels of communications were closed, decided to resort to arms. We fought against the most brutal form of racial oppression the world has ever seen.

The international community joined in that battle in various ways. They applied sanctions, diplomatic and otherwise. They put a lot of pressure on the South African regime to abandon apartheid. Eventually, we won that battle. (Applause.)

That victory was your victory. We have now opened a new battle line to fight against poverty, against hunger, against joblessness, against homelessness, against disease, illiteracy, lack of electricity, of running water, of health care. It may prove to be a more difficult battle than the one we fought with arms and other pressures. It needs, first and foremost, resources. I have said before, albeit in a light vein that, here the wealth of the entire universe is concentrated, and that I will not ask for donations; I'll ask for your checks so that I can write out the amount I want. (Laughter and applause.)

But I have not been here and went back home with empty hands. It matters not to us what government is in power in the United States of America. When I came out, the first head of state to telephone and welcome me back was the President of the United States of America -- a Republican, George Bush -- (applause) -- and invited me to come here. I responded to that invitation.

I then met the present President, at that time a common citizen of this country. Every request I made to him he responded very positively. He has done so now even with more authority after his inauguration. It matters not what government is in power in this country; they supported and still support our struggle to ensure a better life for all our people.

But we never forget our friends, our old friends. We have not forgotten that it was the masses of the people of the United States of America who supported us when we were all alone, when none of our officials could be seen by any government representative in the West. The people of the United States of America never forget.

I do not want on occasions like this to introduce any element of an ethnic nature. But the Afro-Americans never forgot that Africa is their continent. (Applause.) And wherever we went, they opened their arms, they opened the coffers, and set the environment for every citizen of the United States of the America to feel that this is a battle in which you should participate. And in moments of this nature, we think of all of you Afro-Americans because our victory is your victory. (Applause.)

We think of American business, who have supported the democratic process in our country, and who can play a decisive role in ensuring that there are enough homes, there are enough jobs, there are enough schools, there are enough hospitals and doctors for our country, there is electricity for everybody.

I have come here with a message -- people of the United States of America, open your markets to us. People of the United States of America, come and invest in our country. You have no idea how your involvement in the anti-apartheid struggle in our country actually helped us to facilitate the transformation, because the message was, if one of the most powerful states in the world, its citizens have come to the assistance of the people of South Africa -- in particular, the democratic movement led by the African National Congress -- its policies must be right to deserve that support. That is the role that you have played -- all of you, without exception. And I come here in that spirit knowing I will not go back with empty hands.

I think, speaking in the United States of America, I should go to something I've been quoting in the run-up to the elections in our country. An American, you'll immediately recognize this, has said, a person who does what all others can do is a normal person; a person who does what only a few others can do is exceptional; but a person who does what no other person has done is a genius, an asset, a national institution. We want the men and women who are going to strive to be geniuses in fighting to ensure a better life for all people; and that the people of the United States of America have the capacity to be geniuses, to be national assets, to be institutions.

I thank you very much. God bless Africa. Thank you. (Applause.)

END11:33 A.M. EDT