Remarks by Dot Walsh at the presentation ceremony in South Africa
October 6, 2011
It is an honor to be here tonight to present the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award to Nelson Mandela.
I would like to thank Karen Beransche and all who helped make the global summit possible. In the United States the Department of Peace was first presented to Congress by US Representative Dennis Kucinich. Although it has never been adopted there have been many people who are still working to promote this concept. We have a dept. of war why not a dept. of peace? Representative Dennis Kucinich was the most recent recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award.
Andrea Le Blanc from September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the international organization, Network for Peace is with me tonight to present the award.
Shaun Johnson, the executive director of the Mandela Rhodes Foundation will be accepting the award on behalf of Nelson Mandela.
I would like to begin my words with a quote from Robert Kennedy who came to S. Africa during a difficult and turbulent time.
“Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy builds a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
The man we are honoring tonight, Nelson Mandela is such a man.
Many times I have asked myself who is this man who so loved his people and his country that he took on their struggle despite the consequences to himself, risking his life and his personal freedom for 27 years?
He has been described as a man full of vitality and optimism. A man who dedicated his life to the principles of peace, social justice, harmony and equality, and a man who was prepared to die for his beliefs.
He has been called heroic and complex.
His friends called him a simple man, someone who was down to earth with warm human characteristics even finding time to play tennis and chess with tireless energy.
A man who kept his personal life private though he became the most public person in the world.
Educated as a lawyer he spent many years fighting for people who were suffering and punished under the unjust laws of apartheid in a segregated society. Their suffering was his suffering.
Perhaps it was these years that prepared him for the road ahead.
His inner strength and strong will helped him to stay the course and not give in after he was arrested in 1964 charged with treason and given a life sentence. And when faced with the brutality of prison life, being treated as less than human, he used his time to build self discipline. He understood that the power over his own life making choices of how he would act and react was greater than the abusive and oppressive power of the authorities over him.
His intolerance of injustice, knowing it was wrong, and his own suffering strengthened his commitment and compassion for the suffering of his people.
He is a leader with integrity, a leader who inspired not only people in his own country and people throughout the world. There was a world wide outcry from countries who supported his position using sanctions against the government and public events to raise the consciousness about apartheid and the conditions in S. Africa.
In his negotiations with the government in1989 when presenting his peace plans he did not waver or back down. And on February 11th, 1990 he walked through the gates of the prison and in the moment became the most public man in the world.
After his election as president in 1994, He called for democracy, reconciliation and equality for all. As a leader he understood that moral courage and the ability to inspire others while willing to serve them humbly, is more important than serving yourself.
I remember after his release when he visited the United States and appeared at the Hatch Shell in Boston, he was so moved by the people and the music that he danced right into the hearts of people there and everywhere.
This is the man that the scholars in the Mandela Rhodes Foundation are called to follow for these are the characteristics defined in the application process itself.
He is the embodiment of the Ubuntu philosophy for as each one of us knows we are all connected in one human family and our humanity depends on the humanity of each person.
And now I would like to speak directly to Nelson Mandela. The young S. African man we met in the airport told me to call him Tata Madiba.
And so, Tata Madiba you were my beacon of hope and inspiration for the twenty years of my service in prison work as a chaplain. These men in the maximum security section I call my brothers, had committed a crime, and were mostly uneducated, victims of violence themselves and unaware that perhaps their lives could change. They had to discover their own power to make that change and you were our role model. We learned about you, your journey and what you valued.
Some of these men are now living in our community serving the young people who are at risk and desperately need inspiration and a message of hope. For all who have loved and followed your principles over the years I say thank you.
The struggle is not over…just as Mandela said on the day he was released ”Today fills my heart with joy and sadness to learn you are still suffering.”
He recognized the injustice and violence of poverty and as the stability of the world economy challenges those who have and those who have-not, we are called to remember Mandela’s words “your freedom and mine cannot be separated”
In closing, I would like to ask Tammy Lee, 11 years old in the 5th grade of the Bellevue school to join me in reciting The Special Peace Corps Creed.
Dot..When I am hungry
Tammy..Send me someone to feed
Dot,,When I am thirsty
Tammy..Send me someone who needs a drink
Dot..When I am cold
Tammy. Send me someone to warm
Dot..When I am sad
Tammy..Send me someone to cheer
Dot..When I need understanding
Tammy..Send me someone who needs mine
Dot..When I need to be looked after
Tammy..Send me someone to care for
Dot.And when I think only of myself
Tammy.,Draw my thoughts to another.
Let us all stand and face the cameras and send a blessing to Mandiba, the blessing that the children at the LES give as they end their day. Please raise your hands with the sign of love and I will say the blessing.
(sign) Angels hover near and far in what we do and where we are, pace bene, peace and good. We love you Madiba!
And now for the statue to be presented to Shaun Johnson. The award reads.. Nelson Mandela for your courage, commitment and love for your country and its people by sacrificing your own freedom for twenty seven years to bring freedom to all.