Introduction of NELSON R. MANDELA

by Jack Parton
Forest Park, Illinois, United States
July 7, 1993
4 pages
Type: Speech
Coverage in Africa: South Africa
Language: English
Speech of Jack Parton at LABOR WELCOMES NELSON MANDELA: AN EVENING OF SOLIDARITY WITH THE PEOPLE OF SOUTH AFRICA on July 7, 1993. The speech says I thank the Chicago Federation of Labor and the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid for bestowing on the United Steelworkers of America the honor of having me introduce our distinguished guest --- African National Congress President Nelson R. Mandela. The speech says this is indeed a great day for organized labor; never in my wildest dreams did I ever envision there'd come a day when we'd be hosting such a rally; trade unionists throughout Chicago, its suburbs and northwestern Indiana should be proud of this day; the federation and the network had only about two weeks to plan and get this rally off the ground. It takes a lot of work to put on something of this magnitude in so short a time and I ask you to join me in giving all those responsible a big hand to show our appreciation. The speech says many black South Africans have fought and died in the decades-long battle to rid their country of the abhorrent racial and political system known as apartheid. The speech says any roster of prominent names would surely include Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Steven Biko, Chris Hani and so many others --- including the 69 people killed and 176 injured during the Sharpeville Massacre in March, 1960, and the 618 killed and 1,500 injured (mostly schoolchildren) during the period of the Soweto Uprising. They all deserve their places in history. The speech says the person best identified with the South African struggle for human dignity and political rights is none other than the man we honor today. The speech says Nelson Mandela is without doubt one of a handful of 20th Century leaders who have made positive contributions, through words and deeds, for all mankind. The speech says he shares that distinction with others such as Sir Winston Churchill, who fought against the Boers, predecessors of the Afrikaaners; Abraham Lincoln, who kept our country together after a devastating civil war and issued the Emancipation Proclamation; Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who put America's might on the line during the Second World War to help defeat Fascism and Nazism; Mahatma Ghandi, who established his first ashram in South Africa and gave the modem world the non-violence movement; Mother Theresa, who continues to inspire us with her humility in serving the poor and afflicted; Pope John 23rd, who helped bring world-wide Christianity closer through Vatican Councils One and Two, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who pricked our own country's conscience in demanding complete equality and civil rights --- much as Mr. Mandela now does in South Africa. The speech says no means could be better used to introduce our distinguished guest than to recall his own words; in 1962 he was tried in Pretoria for inciting an illegal strike and for leaving the country without a valid passport. The speech says Nelson R. Mandela was born July 18, 1918 in the village of Umtata, South Africa; he attended a Methodist school, holds a Bachelor of Arts from the University of South Africa and is a lawyer. The speech says in 1944, he joined the African National Congress; in 1952, he was elected president of the Transvaal Branch and deputy national president; he spent much of his time organizing the ANC and defending poor people in court; in 1953 he received a suspended sentence of nine months imprisonment for organizing the campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws; in 1956 he was arrested on trumped-up charges of high treason and after a five-year trial was found not guilty. The speech says in 1961, he went underground and became known to his people as "The Black Pimpernel" for his ability to elude the police, travel abroad and still help build the ANC; on August 5, 1962, he was arrested in Natal and sentenced to life in prison in 1964. The speech says he served his sentence in the penal colony on desolate, windswept Robben Island; while in prison he mastered subjects such as economics and government administration preparing himself to be of service to his people if ever released; in 1991 --- 27 years later --- after much international and domestic pressure, the South African Government finally freed him. The speech says the whole world was glad to see him free and would not have been surprised if he emerged a bitter, vengeful person; to our astonishment, Mr. Mandela displayed no rancor, no hatred of his oppressors; only the calm determination to pick up the banner of his people's cause as if he'd never been away. The speech says when he visited the U.S. in 1992, we watched in amazement as he coolly routed Nightline host Ted Coppel on national television; soon, we saw him masterfully bending the South African Government to his will and steering the ANC on a path that will surely lead to its coming to power in South Africa, with himself as the first true president of all South Africans. The speech says Mr. Mandela will celebrate his 75th birthday shortly; his goal of freedom for his people is at hand and in this day and age when many Americans seek role models, they have only to look to this towering leader to realize he is the role model of all role models. The speech says he has won worldwide acclaim as a statesman of the first rank and has been received by many heads-of-state since his release; he met with President Clinton at the White House last week, and is currently preparing the ANC for the national elections set for Spring of 1994. The speech says fellow trade unionists it gives me great pleasure to present a true hero of mine: African National Congress President Nelson R. Mandela. [Note: the correct spellings are Mahatma Gandhi, Ted Koppel and Afrikaners.]
Used by permission of a former member of the Illinois Labor Network Against Apartheid.
Collection: Kathleen M. Devine papers