International Nelson Mandela Day
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Message from the Hon Kevin Rudd, MP, Prime Minister of Australia
Delivered by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Australians have genuine pleasure in joining with the rest of the world today in celebrating International Nelson Mandela Day.
Mandela Day recognises the remarkable difference one individual can make, through their words and deeds, to promoting a world that strives for peace, harmony and reconciliation.
Mr Mandela is a truly inspirational figure, alongside other transformational leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. He is a man who symbolises the true essence of human dignity, freedom and justice.
He showed extraordinary inner strength and moral resilience throughout his long years in prison and in the anti-apartheid struggle.
He guided his country through this tense period with wisdom, patience and the true genius of statesmanship, and laid the foundations of a transformed and democratic South Africa based on the principle of equality regardless of the colour of a person's skin – the primordial human right. His sacrifice and dedication to his country have been a source of inspiration to all South Africans to continue to build a better South Africa for all. He has shown the world through his courage and humility the importance of persevering in the face of adversity – rising above it – and always showing respect to others.
Madiba is held in great esteem and affection by Australians. We first welcomed him to our shores in 1990, only months after his release from 27 years of imprisonment. Thousands came to hear him speak on the steps of the Sydney Opera House and to join him in the struggle against racism and for democracy and freedom. In 1999 we honoured him with our nation's highest award, the Companion of the Order of Australia.
I am confident that Mandela Day – and the values and service this day enshrines – will continue to grow in the hearts and minds of all the peoples of the world.
When Malala Yousafzai, the young girl who Taliban extremists tried to kill in October 2012, spoke to the United Nations Youth Assembly on her 16th birthday last Friday, she identified Nelson Mandela as one of those who had inspired her to forgive her attackers and to strive for peaceful change and reconciliation. This was a transcendent message; not only to the world's youth, but to all of us.
Nelson Mandela's power to inspire continues to help shape the best in our contemporary
world and holds out the prospect of a better world in the future.