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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Rep. Waters Pays Tribute to Nelson Mandela

July 18, 2018
Press Release

Rep. Waters Pays Tribute to Nelson Mandela

 

WASHINGTON – Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, gave a speech on the House Floor to pay tribute to the late South African President Nelson Mandela on what would have been his 100th birthday.

Her remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below. A video can be found here.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life and legacy of South African President Nelson Mandela on what would have been his 100th birthday.  President Mandela, or ‘Mandiba’ as he was affectionately called, was a revolutionary and transformative leader who forever changed the world through his steadfast dedication to freedom, equality, and human rights. After spending 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela became the first black South African to be elected President in what was also the first free, multi-racial, democratic election in South African history.  While President Mandela used his administration to dismantle apartheid, combat institutional racism, and begin the process of racial reconciliation in his country, his efforts also taught the world the power of one man having the fortitude to sacrifice his own ideals for a cause greater than himself.

To me, Nelson Mandela is more than a world-renowned hero.  I had the distinct honor and privilege of calling him a friend. His leadership of the international anti-apartheid movement encouraged me to take action here in the United States where I served as the Los Angeles Chair of the Free South Africa Movement, organized countless anti-apartheid rallies in Los Angeles, led a sit-in at the South African Consulate General Office in Los Angeles, and was even arrested during a protest at the South African Embassy in Washington, DC. I was also a board member of, and worked nationally with, TransAfrica, one of the most prominent anti-apartheid advocacy groups in the United States.

As a member of the California State Assembly, I fought for the passage of Assembly Bill 134 which forced California to divest $12 billion in state pension funds tied to the apartheid regime in South Africa. In 1990, I chaired the committee in Los Angles that brought over 90,000 people together in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to welcome Nelson Mandela into the United States, and I also traveled with the official United States delegation to South Africa in 1994 to attend his inauguration as President of South Africa.  In 1998, I was honored to welcome President Mandela to the United States once again, this time to receive the U.S. Congressional Gold Medal.

In honor of his 95th birthday in 2013, I organized an event called the “Celebration of the Life, Legacy and Values of Nelson R. Mandela” in Emancipation Hall of the United States Capitol Visitor's Center.  The celebration was attended by my colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, leaders from both the United States House and the Senate, and representatives of national and international civil right and humanitarian groups.

As we reflect on Nelson Mandela’s memory today, let us remember when he once said, ‘What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.'

Few embody this quote better than Nelson Mandela himself, and it is my sincere hope that my own career in public service lives up to his extraordinary example.

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