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A Tribute to Ambassador Andrew J. Young

A Tribute to Ambassador Andrew J. Young


♪ Soft piano playing This is one of the giants
of our time. He’s a legend, he is such an
influential person an influencer, you know? Like a
change-agent. ♪ soft piano playing. How do you get to being,
so humble and still have the essence of, “Hey, I still
wanna fight for this.” Always had a grace
under pressure. A dignified courage. ♪ Inspirational music plays. ♪ Soft African music playing. ♪ Choir singing “Because.” We’re really humbled
by the visit. Ambassador Young and Mayor Reed, thank you so much for gracing us, because for us, you represent
something that’s really special. [Ambassador Gaspard’s Voice]
Ambassador Young I think that I am probably
not the first and I dare say not the last person who will
say, that you have long been a personal hero. I remember being a young pup
taking my first civil disobedience arrest,
in front of the South African Embassy in Washington DC, and I only had the courage to do it because I saw you go first. [Laughing] Not only did you demonstrate to
us the, a compassionate leadership but
also a courageous one. I’m therefore honoured this
evening to pay my own tribute to an icon in his own right. A colossus, and a legend who has inspired the global struggle for justice. Wherever he goes, he brings hope. He raises the spirit of no surrender against injustice. His name is Andrew Young. ♪ Music begins to play louder. And they said in the future there will be a new generation
with new privileges and
new responsibilities. I want that new generation to know, that those privileges and responsibilities did not come without somebody suffering and sacrificing for them. I think that’s so appropriate as we celebrate Ambassador Young
and think about the Nelson Mandela Centre. Life has moments. Thank you all for giving us
this opportunity to look our elders in the eye, to simply bow and say thank you. [Audience applause] “Now I think that non-violence
can work, not only in the situation that
we find in our country, not only with the magnificent
example that we have in India, expressed through the marvelous
work of Mohandas K. Gandhi, but I think it can work
in ways and in circumstances that we haven’t seen it
and we haven’t used it before. And in this context I would
like to say something about South Africa and our struggle
for freedom and justice in the United States, which has also been so long
and difficult. We feel a powerful sense of
identification with those in the far more
deadly struggle for freedom in South Africa.” Dr. King recieves a
tremendous amount of credit for the way he was inspired
by Mahatma Gandhi and borrowed some of the tools
of the non-violent movement from India to
the United States, but even before he ever met
Dr. King Andrew Young had also been
personally inspired and become enamored with the movement for liberation
in India, the non-violent movement
for liberation. He always saw non-violence
as the most essential tool, the essential moral tool, that
minorities had when being challenged
and oppressed. They believed in a
particular philosophy whether it’s Christian or
Hindu or whatever and that philosophy teaches
you, ‘what is the point of your life.’ And it tells you in that
philosophy that we are our neighbors keepers. If you can’t feel for your
neighbor, then what kind of a Christian
are you? Or what kind of a Hindu
are you? Or what kind of a Muslim
are you? And so it’s all the faiths and I
know that Ambassador Young was also a Reverend
in the church and so I guess you know
that those are the principles that he was upholding. There’s a reason why he became
the most trusted lieutenant of Dr. King and I dare say
one of the very few in that circle who went on to
have his own independent voice. What Andrew Young also did was to create an extraordinary
bridge between the civil rights
movement in the United States and the liberation movement
in Africa. And to show that this was a
global movement of freedom for all minority and oppressed
peoples around the world. Ambassador Young, when he
also came here he met with student leaders, the Soweto
student leaders and I mean the timing, I think
he was here in 1977. So the 1976 Soweto massacre
had just happened and he made the choice of
meeting black leaders in a country governed by
a white minority, and a very repressive government
at that. And so that level of courage I
mean is essential if we’re going to
address these issues. He was very clear that
economic pressure could bring about radical
changes. So the idea behind the whole
thing was that the government must acknowledge
that what they are doing is wrong and they have to
take steps to put things right. “We have honored Chief Luthuli
for his leadership and we know how this
non-violence was only met by increasing violence from
the State. Increasing repression,
culminating in the shootings at Sharpeville and all that
has happened since. The mass of the people seems to
be contained, seems for the moment unable to
break from the oppression. I emphasise the word ‘seems’
because we can imagine what emotions and plans must be
seething below the calm surface of that prosperous police state.” There is no ways that we’re
going to accept, even if it means our own death, but we had to
fight for the rights of the people. I was one of the council in the
Rivonia Trial where Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu,
Mbeki were accused. There was an almost
certain presumption that there would be death
sentences for the nine accused that were on trial. There was no death sentence, and I believe that one of
the reasons why there was no death sentence was the intervention of the
people, including the black people and particularly the black
people and their leaders in the United States. That made it quite clear, that
if there were death sentences imposed the good business that the
American government or the American business did was going to be very difficult
to continue if the leaders of the African National Congress were sentenced to death. If they were sentenced to death,
there would inevitably have been a bloody revolution in
South Africa. Looking at how Nelson Mandela
for instance, I mean, you know when he
came out of prison things could have gone the other way
and not the way that they did you know. And looking at
leaders like that should inspire us as young people to look
at things in a much more I don’t want to us the word
‘non-violent’ but you know there are ways
that you can bring change without destroying the very
thing that you’re saying you’re fighting for. But it was Andrew Young
who forcefully argued the role of Mandela and the
Robben Island people and the role that they played
and because he had such a relaionship with Jimmy Carter. So what people may have seen
as clashes, it’s because these two, deeply trusted and
respected each other. And once Jimmy Carter understood
that these men who he was seeing as terrorists, leaders of the
liberation movement, that they were actually fighting
for the freedom and the rights of their people. It shifted America’s
political position. “With the great mass of
South Africans denied their humanity,
their dignity, denied opportunity,
denied all human rights. It is in this situation that
many of the bravest and best South Africans serving long
years in prison, with some already executed. In this situation we in America
and Britain have a unique responsibility. For it is we, through our
investments, through our government’s
failure to act decisively, who are guilty of bolstering up
the South African tyranny.” The integrity that he had to
stand up against the very people that actually
put him there, to say, ‘It doesn’t matter if I lose it
all, but I’m going to stand for what I believe
is right.’ If you see something wrong in
the world, I believe greatly that one shouldn’t be a
spectator of the problems in the world. Andrew J. Young was
not a spectator. He believed that, one should
be active change makers, active catalysts of change
in the world. Even the negative publicity
was important because it put the issues on the table. What is it that we are
fighting against? “Then the majority of
South Aficans of all races could at last build the
shared society they desire and so this is the
challenge facing the nations of the world. God grant that we will
meet this challenge and be a part of that great
creative movement that will seek to bring
about change and transform those dark yesterdays of
man’s inhumanity to man into bright tomorrows of
justice and peace and goodwill.” That’s part of his legacy.
Peaceful change, democratic change,
entrepreneurship, prosperity, equality, all these
are embodied in Andrew Young. We should continue to care,
we should continue to give back and to contribute to
those amongst us and in the communities that
we live that are less fortunate. Despite the offices that
he held, despite the fact that Andrew Young was in
constant conversation with Presidents and Kings, this is
someone who always maintained a real, fundamental humility. It was very inspiring to see
what he was doing. His continued engagement in
Southern Africa reminds us all that there’s a connectivity that
exists between the average South African and
the average American. Yes, Andrew J. Young was American, but he had to be American
to change Africa. As young people of South Africa
the ball is actually in our court.
We have the decision, we have to make the choice
to actually use what we have to make the best or contribute
to a better South Africa and ultimately a better
Africa. Ambassador Young, we are
deeply grateful and thankful for the huge contributions
that you’ve made and the sacrifices for
democracy in South Africa and on the continent. You will always have a very
special place in our hearts. America has produced
exceptional leaders that have inspired America
and that have inspired the world and for us in Africa,
you represent, the very best of caring, selfless,
compassionate American leaders that have built a special
bridge, a special bond between the people of Amercia
and the people of Africa. Andy, thank you.
We love you, you know that. You are a father to us,
you are a father to your family, you are a father to a continent
and to a generation. Thank you for all that you
have done. God bless. A life well led. I was very honored to have
been asked to officiate when he married Caroline Watson
in Cape Town in March 1996 at the residence of the United
States Ambassador James Joseph. In his biography he explained
that Caroline was a Sunday school teacher who
wouldn’t exaclty tell her pupils that she was travelling
with someone to whom she was not married. (Laughter) You will always be part of us
and I know Aunt Adelaide Tambo and the many South Africans, who
over many years, and Uncle Oliver, who over many years have
been part of the struggle for democracy in South Africa have
a special place and have spoken about you with so much emotional
and deep, love and appreciation. And we are also thanful to
Caroline for the huge support that she’s given you over the
years and may God bless you all. Andrew Young has been an
inspiration to me for as far back as I can recall. He first came into my
political imagination as a young person when I would
see the old footage of the civil rights movement and there was always this
really calm, reassuring and incredibly suave guy,
standing next to Dr. King. I like being with him,
in that he did not set out to be a know-all, who will be able to solve your
problems for you. He was and is a good listener. I thank God for him and his
consistent testimony to equality. Ambassador Young you are on the spot,
the hot seat, so to speak, but you are someone who is
incredibly invested in the
present and in the future. I never had any doubt, that majority rule would prevail in South Africa. See? I never had any question about that at all. I never had any question about
ending segregation in America. It doesn’t mean it’s
going to be easy. I said the other day, my first
real awakening that South Africa
was different from anybody I’d
ever heard, was when Kaizer Motaung was 19 years old and he was the star striker or whatever you call it
for the Atlanta Chiefs, and that’s the first time
Atlanta had won a national championship
of anything. And it was a South African who,
I can still remember it, who kicked the ball back over
his head, one of those bicycle
kicks for the winning goal. I said, ‘Good God Almighty
how did he do that?’ And soccer wasn’t very big then and they offered him a million
dollars to stay there in Atlanta, which was the best city in the world
back then and he said no and came back to South Africa
and I said, ‘What is the matter with him?’ And then a few years later I
come back and he didn’t need a million dollars from somebody else owning
the team. He not only owned the team, he owned the league
and the stadium. [Laughing] So, South Africa changes
my perspective on things because, while you look at
everything that’s going wrong, all I see is wonderful people
doing wonderful things. But, a humane democracy, a sane democracy,
a sensitive democracy, a respectful democracy is going to prevail. I am looking at George Bizos
here. Why I keep coming back to
South Africa. I went to something
up in Popo Molefe’s community, it was
a thanksgiving ceremony and they invited George Bizos as their attorney, and they thank him for saving
their lives, and they thank Bishop Tutu, for believing in them even though
they were considered bad folks, and they hugged and kissed. And the next thing I know they were
bringing up the prosecutor, and the judge that sentenced
them, and they said, “That was in the old South
Africa we had to try, it was our moral duty,
to try to overthrow Apartheid. It was your moral duty
to try and defend it. I want to thank you
for giving me ten years in Nelson Mandela University.”
[Laughter] He said, I wouldn’t be the
governor of this province if I had not spent those
ten years there. And I went to see Winnie
Mandela today and she is almost eighty and when that lady smiles,
she lights up a room like she’s twenty five. And she was really, just so full
of life and buoyancy and I remember that she was
the one that came to Atlanta, to the
United States in the early eighties
and reignited of the divestment movement. It’s just people like that, that make me come back. I mean you’re part of this. You can’t, I don’t know whether
it is in the water, [Laughter] but you cannot grow up in the conflict of this society and Kathrada said, “We’ve got to find a way to
organize a multiracial society.” and Madiba said “No, a multiracial society will
never work in South Africa. We have to have a non-racial
society.” Now, I never thought of that. But America is in the same kind
of situation you’re in. The diversity, the complications
of language and culture, is the richness. If you can do it in the context of mutual respect and non-violence, not only physical but spiritual non-violence. We have to be more sensitive,
to each others’ egos and each others’ insecurities. You know it works out.
[Audience applause] [Ambassador Gaspard] I think
the centre has a gift for you. Thank you for … [Inaudible] [Audience applause] [Choir singing]

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