Address by President Nelson Mandela at the launch of the Friends of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, United States

23 October 1995

Dear Alfred Woodard;
Ladies and Gentlemen.

Tonight marks a special and very exciting moment in the life of our Children's Fund.

Assembled here are distinguished Americans and South Africans brought together by a commitment to a noble cause: the plight of South Africa's youth and how to alleviate it. It would be improper to select some for special mention.

But I cannot contain my pleasure at being in the company especially of the American members of the Board of Directors of the Friends of our Fund: David Dinkins, Wayne Fredericks, Leon Higginbotham, Rodney Wagner, Bernard Watson and Mark Weinberg.

I wish to thank you and all the friends assembled here, for replying to our call.

This evening's events are a spectacular declaration that a new alliance is in the building. Eminent Americans are once more reaching out across the oceans to join hands with South Africans. They are doing so, so that they can work together to address the needs of young people whose lives have been devastated by apartheid.

I am very proud to be associated with so generous a development, and I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation at being able to share in the first major event of the Friends of the Children's Fund.

The Fund was initiated in South Africa in order to lend urgency to the task of addressing the wrong done to our youth and to help them prepare for the future. It is this humble wish which motivated me to launch the Fund and pledge over one-third of my salary to the Fund.

For me personally, it is one of the cruelest facets of South Africa's history that tens of thousands of young people who could otherwise have been developing their talents to the full and making a valuable contribution to society are living a life on the margins of society, mainly because of the legacy of apartheid.

In building a new South Africa, our children must be one of our highest priorities. They are the foundation on which our future is being built.

The Fund is a small but proud member of a partnership that unites all sectors of our society in pursuit of a noble ideal.

Today, that partnership is being born across boundaries. It is finding expression in the Friends of the Children's Fund here in the United States. It provides a way in which individuals, corporations and other institutions can make their own direct contribution to helping those of our young people most seriously in need.

I would like to express my sincere thanks to those who have worked to get the Friends started; to those whose support made this evening's event possible; and to those whose pledges have set an example - such as Denzel Washington - which I hope will be emulated by many others.

Every measure of support that comes through the Friends will lend added impetus to our own efforts. For the needs which have to be addressed are great indeed.

The response to the initiative in South Africa has surpassed expectations. And we are convinced that the same will happen here.

This is as it should be.

The children of South Africa deserve no less.

Thank you.

Source: South African Government Information Website