[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: William J. Clinton (1994, Book II)]
[October 4, 1994]
[Pages 1697-1698]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

Remarks at a State Dinner for President Nelson Mandela of South Africa
October 4, 1994

    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. 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 created 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.
    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. 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. 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 counseled 
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''--excuse me. Let me read it again; it's so beautiful, it shouldn't 
be marred by my voice. ``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. 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.

[[Page 1698]]

    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 

Note: The President spoke at 8:50 p.m. in the East Room at the White