Ambassador of the United States to South Africa, Ambassador Gips and the Ambassador of South Africa to Washington, Ambassador Rasool, a native of the Western Cape and someone closely associated with this university. In fact, when it was suggested that I deliver a speech in South Africa and we asked the South African Embassy in Washington, there was only one answer – (laughter) – the University of the Western Cape. (Applause.)
And of course, it is a most fitting institution despite the Ambassador’s prejudice – (laughter) – because this distinguished, diverse, and storied university has played such an important role in birthing a new South Africa. At a time when apartheid was deeply entrenched, the faculty and staff of Western Cape took a brave stand against division. Over the years, they were in the vanguard of the struggle for justice, even giving thought to a new constitution. It’s only appropriate that this university and this area of South Africa, which has known both the despair of apartheid and the birth of new freedom, was once called the Cape of Storms before it became the Cape of Good Hope.
I first came to South Africa in 1994 for the inauguration of Nelson Mandela, someone who is of course a great leader and a hero to many, including myself. I sat at the inauguration and watched as jets from the South African Defense Force streaked across the sky, their contrails tinted with all the colors of the new national flag. For decades, those jets had been a powerful symbol of the system of apartheid. But on that day, they dipped their wings in salute to their new commander in chief.
For those of us who witnessed the ceremony, it was a searing moment. Here was a man who had spent 27 years as a political prisoner not far from here, now being sworn in as president. And President Mandela’s journey represented something even larger – his country’s journey, the journey of your parents and grandparents and great grandparents, a long but steady march toward freedom for all its people. Being present at the birth of this new democracy was an experience that not only I, but the world, will never forget.
We are now 18 years removed from that iconic moment. If you’re a student here at UWC, you were probably just a toddler back then. A few of you might not even have been born yet. You didn’t just grow up in a democratic South Africa – you grew up with a democratic South Africa. Today, your country is different from the one I visited in 1994, and so too are the challenges you must confront and the opportunities that are there for the seizing.
In this pivotal time, the United States of America is committed to supporting you. As President Barack Obama said so memorably in Ghana in 2009, the nations of Africa need partnership, not patronage; not strongmen, but strong institutions. And the United States seeks to build sustained partnerships that help African nations, including this one, to fulfill your own aspirations.
I am here on a trip that has taken me from West Africa, to East Africa, to the Horn, and now to the south. In each place, I have seen America’s partners taking charge of solving tough problems. In South Sudan, the new government of a nation only a year old, made a courageous decision to restart oil production for the benefit of its people. In Uganda, I met with soldiers fighting terrorists in Somalia and working to end Joseph Kony’s reign of terror with the Lord’s Resistance Army. In Malawi, I met not only a new female president, Joyce Banda, but also a group of remarkable teenage girls building their skills and confidence, and a group of village women improving their incomes and their families’ futures through banding together in a dairy cooperative.
At every stop, I’ve described how the Obama Administration’s comprehensive strategy with Africa rests on four pillars, which the Archbishop just mentioned: first, promoting opportunity and development; second, spurring economic growth, trade and investment; third, advancing peace and security; and fourth, strengthening democratic institutions.
We are working with your country on all four of these. I have just finished the second Strategic Dialogue between our countries with Foreign Minister Mashabane. During the year, many officials of both of our governments, across many agencies, work together on important issues.
And then we meet annually to review progress in our cooperation. Let me give you just a few brief highlights that help paint a picture of the depth and breadth of our bilateral relationship.
Today at the Delft South Clinic, the United States signed a document with South Africa that marks a major transition in South Africa’s continuing fight against HIV/AIDS. South Africa will become the first country in Africa to plan, manage, and pay for more of your own efforts to combat the epidemic, while the United States will continue to provide funding and technical support through our PEPFAR program.
We also brought a delegation of leaders from American companies like FedEx and Chevron and Boeing and General Electric that are looking to expand their work in South Africa. They met with their counterparts from the South African business community, nearly 200 representatives looking to strengthen our ties commercially.
We launched a new $7.5 million public-private partnership to improve teacher quality that brings together our governments, foundations, and businesses. We announced the start of an opportunity grants program that will help disadvantaged South African students study in the United States. We established a Global Disease Detection Center that will be jointly led by health experts from our two countries. We established a new program to help judges and court systems more effectively combat gender-based violence, and to help South Africa support other countries in the region trying to do the same. And later today, we will complete an agreement with the City of Cape Town to provide high-speed internet access in Khayelitsha Province – or Township.
Now that’s quite a list and there is more to be said, but in short, it represents the work we are doing together, work that goes to the heart of our relationship that is aimed on improving the lives of people, working to eradicate disease, ameliorate and end poverty, working with you to help you solve the challenges you face.
But there is a different aspect of our relationship that doesn’t get nearly enough attention, and that’s how we can work with South Africa and all the nations of Africa to solve those challenges and problems not just within your borders, but across the continent and indeed throughout the world.
Our shared mission is essential to our common security and prosperity and to the fundamental character of the world of the 21st century. This is about your world, the one you will inherit.
Consider some of the problems we face today – an anemic global economy, transnational crime and terrorism, climate change, disease, famine, nuclear proliferation. None of these problems can be solved by any one country acting alone or even by several countries acting together. Each one calls for a global network of partners – governments, businesses, international and regional organizations, academic institutions, civil society groups, even individuals all working in concert. And there cannot be a strong global network unless there are strong African partners.
Now I’ve often heard it said that African problems need African solutions. Well, I’m here to say that some of our global problems need African solutions too. (Applause.) And few nations on this continent can carry as much weight or be as effective partners and leaders as South Africa. (Applause.) You are a democratic power with the opportunity to influence Africa and the world. You have led on nonproliferation at the International Atomic Energy Agency and on climate change at the Durban conference. You’ve led on economic cooperation at the G-20. You’ve led on women’s participation in politics. And a South African woman will soon become chair of the African Union Commission, a first in the history of that organization. (Applause.)
Now all of this is good news for the people of South Africa, this continent, and the world. But respectfully, I say that we and you can, should, and must do more. Two days ago, I had the honor of visiting President Mandela and his wife Graca Machel at their home in Qunu. The man who did so much to shape the history of a free South Africa has never stopped thinking about the future of South Africa. You, the young generation, are called not just to preserve the legacy of liberty that has been left to you by Madiba and by other courageous men and women. You are called to build on that legacy, to ensure that your country fulfills its own promise and takes its place as a leader among nations and as a force for peace, opportunity, equality, and democracy, and to stand up always for human rights at home and around the world.
This is a journey that my own country knows well. Although America and South Africa are certainly different nations with different histories, we have a deep and abiding connection. Like you, Americans know what it takes to begin healing the wounds of oppression and discrimination. We have had leaders, and the Archbishop quoted one – our first president, George Washington – but also Soujourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr., and so many others who both inspired us and challenged us to live up to our values, to keep faith with the ideals set forth and enunciated at our beginning. We know this work is hard, and it is not only ongoing, it is never-ending. But like you, we are compelled by the arc of our nation’s history to stand up around the world for the values we ascribe to and advance at home.
Now discussions about the rise of emerging powers like South Africa usually start and too often stop with people simply saying, “With great power comes great responsibility.” It is worth considering what this really means. Some critics are quick to say, when America says emerging powers have great responsibility, they mean great responsibility to do whatever America wants. Well, I do believe that because of your history, South Africa has an obligation to be a constructive force in the international community just as the United States does. But that obligation has nothing to do with what America or anyone else wants you to do. It has everything to do with who you are. Here in South Africa, you achieved something that few countries have ever done. You proved that it doesn’t take an all-out civil war to bridge the divide between people who grew up learning to hate one another. You showed that the rights of minorities can be protected even in places where the majority spent decades and decades living in oppression. You reminded the world that the way forward is not revenge, but truth and reconciliation.
Of course, you know better than I how much work needs to be done. South Africa faces daunting economic, social, and political challenges, but you have laid the foundation for a society that is more prosperous, more inclusive, more peaceful, more democratic. And the world needs you to contribute much because you already have accomplished much. For nations like ours, the United States and South Africa, doing these things that reflect our values, our histories for our own people can never be enough. We have to look beyond our borders.
So let me highlight some of the ways the United States and South Africa can work together to promote opportunity and development, spur economic growth, trade, and investment, advance peace and security, and strengthen democratic institutions. First, opportunity and development. Even as South Africa responds to your challenges at home, you are supporting your neighbor’s efforts to fight poverty to improve health, to create conditions for more sustainable inclusive growth. You’re working with the Government of Malawi to help farmers learn to use their land more efficiently and raise their incomes. You’re supporting South Sudan in efforts to train judges and strengthen their judicial system and so much more.
The United States and South Africa can share our experiences, pool our knowledge, leverage our resources so both of us get more and better results. For example, we are partnering with the University of Pretoria to train leaders from the public and private sector in other African countries in developing agricultural strategies. This is the kind of partnership we want to see more of, not just with South Africa but with other African countries that are becoming donors as well as recipients of assistance. Tanzania and Ghana, for example, are improving food security throughout East and West Africa. Nigeria has released food supplies to help its neighbors in the Sahel. We are only limited by our imagination. But of course, our goal must be opportunity for all, development for those most in need of lifting themselves and their families and communities out of poverty. If that remains our goal, there are limitless ways we can collaborate together.
The second pillar of our strategy – economic growth, trade, and investment – is another where the world looks to South Africa to play a constructive role in promoting a global economic architecture that benefits everyone. Now of course, that is easy to talk about and the devil is always in the details, whether we’re discussing unfair tariffs or the speed of trade liberalization or local content and ownership share requirements. But our shared interests are greater than any differences. We both want domestic and international rules that protect our workers while attracting investment from abroad. We both want clean and sustainable growth that does not pollute our water or our air. We both want transparency and a level playing field free of corruption. We both want to create jobs at home while promoting a global economic recovery that, as President Kennedy said, lifts all boats.
That’s why the Obama Administration remains committed to renewing the African Growth and Opportunity Act with South Africa included before the act expires in 2015. (Applause.) We’re pleased that Congress acted last week to extend the Third-Country Fabric Provision through 2015, which will have enormous benefits for entrepreneurs, especially women, in many of South Africa’s neighbors, and also create jobs in the United States. President Obama will sign this bill as soon as it reaches his desk.
But measures like the African Growth and Opportunity Act will not their reach their full potential, and Africa will not reach its full promise unless African countries break down the barriers with their neighbors. As we have seen from North and South America to East Asia, everyone benefits when neighbors open their markets to each other and take steps to spur regional trade and investment.
But unfortunately, there still is less trade among the countries of sub-Saharan Africa than in any other region of the world. South African leaders have said encouraging words about regional integration; now the region looks to them to help lead the effort to tear down the barriers that often make it easier to export goods halfway around the world than to your neighbors on the continent. President Zuma is picking up the mantle by championing an ambitious north-south infrastructure corridor, enlisting governments, the private sector, and regional organizations to realize that vision that has so often remained elusive – the highway from Cape Town to Cairo. Well, with South Africa in the lead, perhaps I will be able to come back in a few years and actually drive it. (Laughter.)
The third area of our shared agenda is peace and security. Now, South Africa and the United States have not always seen eye-to-eye in this area, particularly at the height of the crises in Libya and Cote d’Ivoire. But the differences we have between us in these moments are over tactics, not principles. And that should not obscure our many shared goals, from supporting the political transition in Somalia to combating piracy, from addressing the threat of terrorism and violent extremism across the Sahel to reinforcing the peace between Sudan and South Sudan.
In one especially crucial area, South Africa has set the standard for the world, stopping nuclear proliferation. As the first country to voluntarily give up nuclear weapons, South Africa speaks with rare authority. You can most convincingly make the case that giving up nuclear weapons is a sign of strength, not weakness. And you can help ensure – (applause) – and you can help ensure that any country that pursues nuclear weapons programs will invite only more pressure and isolation. This means South Africa can play an even greater role on issues like curbing Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons or preventing nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.
And South Africa also is supported by and supports Africa’s regional institutions in advancing peace and security. We have worked closely with the African Union, which has emerged as an increasingly active force in addressing security challenges from Somalia to Mali to Sudan and South Sudan. And I thank the AU for all their efforts, led by former President Thabo Mbeki, to help broker the oil agreement reached by the two sides last week. Regional organizations like SADC or ECOWAS are engaged as we speak in peace and reconciliation efforts in Madagascar and Guinea-Bissau. More informal arrangements, like the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, are bringing leaders together to tackle the conflict in the Eastern Congo. South Africa plays an important leadership and supportive role in all of this.
Now, the fourth area is protecting human rights and democracy. Americans and South Africans alike pledge ourselves to the proposition that all people everywhere should live with dignity, pursue their dreams, voice their opinions freely, worship as they choose. We want to see all of that come to fruition.
Now, living up to these principles is not easy. No country’s record is spotless, including my own. Right now, many democracies in the global south, including South Africa, are engaged in a vigorous debate. On the one hand, they want to promote democratic values and respect for human rights in other nations. But on the other hand, they are wary of intervention that bears on the internal affairs of those other nations.
Ultimately, we are all called to answer the question about how we live up to these principles that we share, and there are no easy solutions, and one country may not answer that question the same way as another. But we all have to recognize that anywhere in any place where human rights are abused and democracy – true democracy – denied, the international community must apply pressure to help bring about positive change. No one understands that better than the people of South Africa.
So we welcome South Africa’s support last week for the resolution at the UN General Assembly condemning Syria and the Assad regime’s brutal reign of terror. I hope this vote can be the foundation for a new level of cooperation on one of the more urgent questions of our time.
More broadly, at the UN Human Rights Council and other venues, we look to you to help lead the effort to protect universal human rights for everyone. When old friends in power become corrupt and repressive, a decision by South Africa to stand on the side of freedom is not a sign that you’re giving up on old allies. It’s a reminder to yourselves and the world that your values don’t stop at your borders. And I particularly appreciate the leadership role that South Africa and other southern African democracies like Zambia and Botswana can play in supporting the newest democracies. Egypt, Tunisia, South Sudan, Libya, Kyrgyzstan, and others are looking for advice and models. And you can point to a university like this one, which insisted on the freedom to teach whomever and however they saw fit. You can point to the independent trade unions that stood up for workers’ rights and the civil society groups that provided legal counsel and other essential support. You can point to the courageous journalists who insisted on telling the truth even when it invited the government’s wrath.
And here in Africa, the international community has made it clear that the people of Zimbabwe deserve the right to have their voices and votes heard and counted in a free and fair election. Thanks to the efforts of President Zuma and SADC, along with Zimbabwe’s civil society, a draft of a new constitution is nearly complete. Now these same leaders can help accelerate progress toward finalizing and adopting that new constitution through a credible referendum and holding a free and fair election monitored by the international community. (Applause.) And if Zimbabwe’s leaders meet these commitments, the United States is prepared to match action for action. (Applause.)
So in each of these four areas – development, economic growth, peace and security, democracy and human rights – South Africa already embodies so many of the values that the world is looking for. And we look forward to deepening our cooperation. But let us remember no country’s influence is a birthright – not America’s and not South Africa’s. (Applause.) We have our own work cut out for us to keep moving toward and trying to achieve the unachievable more perfect union, to live up to our values, to use our influence and power to help others achieve their own dreams. And if South Africa is to achieve the full measure of your own ambition, you too must face and solve your own challenges in health and education, economic inequality, unemployment, race relations, gender-based violence, the issues that you live with and must address.
These are areas that we too face, and we stand ready to work with you, but only the people of South Africa can make the decisions about how you will solve these problems and overcome these challenges.
Only South Africans can fight corruption. Only South Africans can prevent the use of state security institutions for political gain. Only South Africans can defend your democratic institutions, preventing the erosion of a free press and demanding strong opposition parties and an independent judiciary. Only South Africans can truly preserve and extend the legacy of the Mandela generation.
And these are tasks not just for governments. These are tasks for every citizen – political leaders, teachers, civil servants, entrepreneurs, community activists. And there is a special responsibility for the young people of South Africa, including all the students here today.
Someday soon, you will be making decisions about your future – choosing your career, thinking about whether to start a family. These are deeply personal choices that will shape the life you lead.
But you will also be called on to define the very nature of your citizenship and your country’s approach to your fellow citizens and the world. You will decide whether South Africa moves forward and not backward. You will decide whether South Africa seeks to erase old dividing lines in global politics. You will decide whether South Africa seeks to set aside old suspicions and instincts and embrace new partnerships tailored to 21st century challenges. Our own partnership – not only between our governments, but between our people – can grow deeper and stronger if both of us remember our respective histories and the obligations they impose if we keep focused on the future and move toward it together.
Nearly 50 years ago, Robert F. Kennedy – a United States senator, attorney general, and champion of civil rights – came to Cape Town and gave a heartfelt speech about South Africa’s place in the world. He painted a vivid picture of the future he envisioned, one where every nation respects universal human rights, promotes social justice, accelerates economic progress, liberates all people to pursue their talents.
South Africa, he said, can play an “outstanding role” in creating that world. And he called in particular on the young people of that time, saying, “This world demands the qualities of youth; not a time of life but a state of mind, a quality of the imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity.”
One of my personal heroines, and a former predecessor as First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt once said that human rights really starts in the small places close to home. It’s easy to talk about the big, sweeping issues, to pledge ourselves to the abstractions of human rights. It’s harder – much harder – to reach deep inside of our hearts and minds to truly see the other, whether that other is of a different race, ethnicity, religion, tribe, national origin, and recognize the common humanity.
I have been in and around politics for a long time. It’s easy to lose sight of the common humanity of those who oppose you. You get to feeling that your way is the right way, that your agenda is the only one that will save the people. And all of the sudden, you begin to dehumanize the opposition and the other.
The greatest lesson I learned about this came from Nelson Mandela. When I came to that inauguration in 1994, it was a time of great political conflict in my own country. My husband was President. People were saying terrible things about us both – personally, politically, every way you could think of. (Laughter.) And I was beginning to get pretty hard inside. I was beginning to think, “Who do they think they are? What can I do to get even?” (Laughter.)
After that inauguration that I described in the beginning, I, along with other dignitaries from all over the world were invited to a great lunch under a huge tent at the President’s house. I had had breakfast there in the morning with President de Klerk, and I came back to have lunch with President Mandela. (Laughter.) Oh, there were so many important people there. Our delegation was led by our Vice President. There were kings and prime ministers and presidents, and just a glittering assembly.
And President Mandela stood to greet us all and welcome us to that lunch. And he said, “I know you are all very important people, and I invite you all to our new country. I thank you for coming. But the three most important people to me, here in this vast assembly, are three men who were my jailers on Robben’s Island.” I sat up so straight. (Laughter.) I turned to the person next to me to say, “What did he say?” (Laughter.) He said that the most important people here were three of his jailers.
And he said, “I want them to stand up.” And three middle-aged white men stood up. He called them by name. He said, “In the midst of the terrible conditions in which I was held for so many years, each of those men saw me as a human being. They treated me with dignity and respect. They talked to me; they listened. And when I walked out of prison, I knew I had a choice to make. I could carry the bitterness and the hatred of what had been done to me in my heart forever, and I would still be in prison. Or I could begin to reconcile the feelings inside myself with my fellow human beings.”
That is the true legacy of President Mandela, calling all of us to complete the work he started, to overcome the obstacles, the injustices, the mistreatments that everyone – every one of us – will encounter at some point in our lives. That is truly what South Africa is called to do, to continue the struggle, but the struggle for human dignity, the struggle for respect, the struggle to lift people up and give children a chance – every boy and girl – to fulfill his or her God-given potential in this beautiful land that has been so blessed.
It’s a burden being an American or a South African, because people expect you to really live up to those standards. People hold us to a higher set of standards, don’t they? And we owe it to all who came before, all who sacrificed and suffered, to do our very best to keep working every single day to meet those standards. But we mostly owe it to our future.
Many things have changed since Robert Kennedy came to Cape Town and Nelson Mandela left Robben’s Island. But some have not. The world we want to build together still demands the qualities of youth and a predominance of courage over timidity. So in that spirit, let us work together so that the values that shaped both our nations may also shape a world that is more peaceful, more prosperous, and more just.
Thank you all very much. (Applause.)