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Ban Ki-moon: Let Us Be ‘Inspired By The Spirit He Awakened’

With His Long Walk Complete, Let Us Be ‘Inspired By The Spirit He Awakened’, Secretary-General says At Memorial Service For Nelson Mandela

Following are UN Secretary-General Ban Ki moon’s remarks at the memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela, in Johannesburg on 10 December:

I am deeply honoured to attend on behalf of the United Nations, this State memorial service for the late former President Nelson Mandela. We join together in sorrow for a mighty loss and in celebration of a mighty life.

What a wondrous display of this rainbow nation. In nature, a rainbow emerges from the rain and the sun. It is that blending of the symbols of grief and gratitude that I feel today. Through the rain of sadness and the sun of celebration, a rainbow fills our hearts.

I offer my deepest condolences to Mme Graça Machel and the Mandela family, to Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and to Madiba’s larger family — the people of South Africa, this great continent and indeed the world.

This stadium holds many tens of thousands. But even an arena as big as Africa could not contain our pain.

South Africa has lost a father. The world has lost a beloved friend and mentor. Nelson Mandela was more than one of the greatest leaders of our time. He was one of the greatest teachers. And he taught by example. He sacrificed so much and was willing to give up everything — for freedom and equality, for democracy and justice.

His compassion stands out most. He was angry at injustice, not at individuals. He hated hatred, not the people caught in its grip. He showed the awesome power of forgiveness — and of connecting people with each other and with the true meaning of peace. That was his unique gift — and that was the lesson he shared with all humankind.

He has done it again. Look around this stadium and this stage. We see leaders representing many points of view, and people from all walks of life. All here, all united. This grandest of all baobab trees left deep roots that reach across the planet.

Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa’s democratic transformation was a victory by and for South Africans. But it was also a triumph for the ideals of the United Nations — and for anyone, anywhere, who has ever faced the poison of prejudice.

The United Nations stood side by side with Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa in the fight against apartheid. We used every tool we had: sanctions, an arms embargo, a sports boycott, diplomatic isolation. We spoke up loud and clear across the world. Apartheid was vanquished.

But as he would be the first to say, our struggle continues — against inequality and intolerance, and for prosperity and peace. Nelson Mandela showed us the way with a heart larger than this stadium and an infectious smile that could easily power its lights. In fact, it lit up the world. Nelson Mandela is now at rest, his long walk complete.

Let us now be guided and inspired by the spirit he awakened in all of us — the flame of human rights, the beacon of hope. This boxer fought throughout his life for each and every one of us. It is the duty of all of us who loved him to keep his memory alive in our hearts, and to embody his example in our lives.

May he rest in peace and eternity. Lala Ngoxolo [Xhosa for “Rest in peace”]. Tutwini [Xhosa for “I present my condolences”]. Ndiyabulela [Xhosa for “thank you”].


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