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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release October 4, 1994
                           The Rose Garden   

8:50 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT CLINTON: President Mandela, members of the South African delegation, distinguished guests, my fellow Americans. Mr. President, the American people welcome you to the White House on this, the occasion of your first state visit to the United States. You've been an inspiration to the American people. (Applause.)

You have been a genuine inspiration to the American people and to freedom-loving people around the world -- people who still marvel at the price you paid for your conviction, a conviction that our country embraces, but still struggles to live up to: the conviction that all men and women are create equal and, therefore, ought to have a chance to live up to the fullest of their God-given potential and to have an equal say in the affairs of their land.

Your captivity symbolized the larger captivity of your nation; shackled to the chains of prejudice, bigotry and hatred. And your release also freed your nation and all its people to reach their full potential -- a quest too long and so cruelly denied.

But your story, thankfully, for all South Africans and for the rest of us as well, does not end with your freedom, it continues into what you have sought to do with your freedom. Because you've found within you the strength to reconcile, to unite, to make whole a country too long divided, you are giving real life to the magnificent words that begin the Freedom Charter you helped to draft nearly 40 years ago. "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white."

Now, instead of focusing on the past 342 years, when South Africa did not belong to all who lived in it, you are building a future of trust and tolerance. White South Africans might have fled in fear of retribution; but instead, they have had the courage to stay and to join you in building a new future for all the people of your land. I would say to a world too often torn apart by racial and ethnic and religious strife: Watch South Africa as it comes together and follow South Africa's example. (Applause.)

As an American, and as a child of the southern part of our country who grew up in a segregated environment and saw firsthand its horror and its debasement of all of us who lived in it, I must add that, as you well know, Mr. President, your presence here has special significance for Americans. We have been especially drawn to the problems and the promise of South Africa. We have struggled, and continue to struggle, with our own racial challenges. So we rejoice, especially, in what you have accomplished, and we hold it out. (Applause.)

And as we hold it out as an example to others, so we also hold it out as an example to ourselves. Mr. President, I know how proud you are to have your daughter, Zinzi, with you on this trip, and I am proud to have her as my dinner partner tonight. (Applause)

I know that during your years in captivity you were a prodigious letter writer, and your daughter was one of your favorite correspondents, not least because of her own writing talent.

In one letter, written from your cell at Robben Island Prison, you counselled her as follows: "While you have every reason to be angry with the fates for the setbacks you may have suffered from time to time, you must vow to turn those misfortunes into victory. There are few misfortunes in this world you cannot turn into personal triumph if you have the iron will and the necessary skill."

President Mandela, you have shown us the iron will and the necessary skill. (Applause.) And, I might add, you have done it with genuine compassion for others. We are honored by your presence here. We are honored by the promise that your leadership offers your country. We are committed to your success and proud of the partnership we have already established.

And so I ask all my fellow Americans to raise their glasses to you and to all those who have led South Africa into the bright light of freedom.

(A toast is offered.) (Applause.)

PRESIDENT MANDELA: Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, honorable members of the administration, esteemed members of Congress, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. As we break bread together within the venerable confines of this famous symbol of democracy, we are reminded of that which binds us -- particularly the pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.

For it is upon the basis of these values that the bond between our two countries, at last embraced as free nations, can become an enduring partnership. Democracy and justice are ideas we in South Africa have cherished over the years. As in your country, many suffered and sacrificed as we traversed the long road to their attainment. Though in its infancy in our country, the system of democracy is today a reality that we derive pride from -- an achievement we are determined to protect like the apple of our eye.

As we strive to make it a living reality for all our citizens, we will not hesitate to learn, as we have done in the past, from what has been achieved in your country and other parts of the world. The United States and its people played a significant role in the struggle against apartheid, and all that it stood for, we salute you for taking our concerns as your own.

We thank you for your support then and for your commitment now to our newly achieved democracy, and to the reconstruction and development program of our country. Inasmuch as our two nations were in unique partnership to end apartheid, today we are striking out along a new road to build an abiding relationship aimed at improving the people's quality of life.

The discussions were held this morning and the many other engagements during the course of our visit are bound to firm up the foundations of this unique partnership.

Our world faces many urgent challenges: deprivation, conflict, ignorance, environmental degradation, hunger and disease; some on an unprecedented scale. But the new determination to tackle these issues jointly constitute a silver lining which demonstrates humanity's capacity to find just and lasting solutions to its problems. (Applause.)

It is our heartfelt desire that the bond based on common interests between our two nations will grow ever more diverse and stronger. Among the most pressing issues in this regard is to consolidate cooperation in pursuit of stronger economic ties, advancement of human rights and preservation of the environment.

Mr. President, my government and the people of our country look forward to a most constructive period in our relations, including an official state visit by yourself to South Africa. (Applause.)

Thank you for honoring me and my delegation in this way tonight. I hereby propose a toast to the President of the United States of America, to the people of your country and to ever stronger relations between our two nations.

(A toast is offered.)

Thank you Mr. President. Thank you. (Applause.)

END9:05 P.M. EDT