Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Annual Gold Award Ceremony of the President's Award

25 November 1994

Minister Glover,
Premiers of the Eastern Cape and Northern Transvaal;
Craig Andrew
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;
Recipients of the Gold Award.

Tonight's Annual Gold Award ceremony is unlike any previous one. It is the first year that the programme under which the awards are made has been known as the President's Award programme. And that is because it is the first such ceremony since our country became a democracy.

Thus we are celebrating effort and self-improvement amongst young people, at the very moment that our country as a whole is transforming itself. It is a joyous occasion and I feel most privileged to be sharing it with you. I should add that for someone of my age, the experience of being amongst so many young people, representatives of the future, is a rare and invigorating one!

As Patron-in-Chief of the President's Award programme, I would like to compliment those who organised this impressive event. I would also like to thank those people and organisations, many of them represented here tonight, whose support has made the success of the programme possible. But above all tonight belongs to the young people receiving the Gold Award. Your efforts and your success in developing your own potential are an example to all of us: to your friends; to your communities; and to the nation as a whole. Some of you have had to contend with extremely difficult, and indeed daunting, circumstances. You had to assert your own worth from the margins to which society had pushed you.

The reconstruction and development of our country, which is aimed at bringing a better life for all South Africans, requires of every person and institution the qualities which your have displayed.

Ladies and gentlemen

Our country needs enterprise, initiative, courage and compassion.

It needs the active involvement of disadvantaged communities in their own upliftment. That is the key to the success of the Reconstruction and Development Programme. There is no other way. That is why we are all so eagerly awaiting the local government elections which will give communities the means to take their own local affairs in hand.

South Africa needs all its people and all its communities to work together with others in pursuit of common goals. None of the goals we have set ourselves as a nation can be achieved by any one group or sector of society on its own.

Changing our society as a whole, in order to address the basic needs of especially the poor, requires of each and every community and institution that it changes itself in order to free itself from the constraints of the past. All of us can then contribute our energies and the best of our potential to building our country.

There can be no process more important for the future of South Africa than the realisation of the potential of our youth. Freedom would be hollow if it did not bring about their liberation from the heavy weight that restrained their energy, dampened their enthusiasm for life and cast an angry shadow on their self-esteem.

By convincing so many young people that they have the power to change their circumstances and their lives, the President's Award programme is making a very important contribution to realising the potential of our youth.

The growth and transformation of the President's Award programme itself over recent year points the way forward for other organisations and institutions still struggling to break free from the past. May you plans for expanded activity come to fruition. We need you.

We also need the continued support of those who have made the work of the programme possible, whether it has been through financial assistance, the voluntary giving of your time and skills, or dedication.

We are encouraged by the presence here tonight of the distinguished Minister of Sport of Mauritius. We welcome you and hope that your visit to South Africa is pleasant one. Strengthening the sporting ties between our two countries can only contribute to the development of young people in both South Africa and Mauritius.

In conclusion, may I say to all those who are about to receive their Gold Awards: Congratulations. We are proud of you. May this award inspire you to continue in your efforts to draw the most out of yourselves and to encourage others to do the same. In so doing, you will be helping to build our country.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation