Address by President Nelson Mandela at a celebration on the anniversary of Bastille Day

15 July 1996

Mr President;
Mr Prime Minister
Distinguished guests;
Ladies and gentleman.

How refreshing it is to join you today in the celebrations of Bastille Day - an event which is as much a part of world history as it is part of French history.

For generations this event has inspired millions across the globe to resist oppression and discrimination. It is a joy to join the descendants of those great revolutionaries in celebrating the birth of their nation.

The example of the French Revolution served as a beacon for our own endeavours. We were certain that those who denied us our rights were marching against the tide of history. The support of our struggle by the people of too, in our own special way, ston their millions declared that the time had come for the people toes. The forces of apartheid and of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are deepening their roots in our and sweat of millions of South African's; and the support that the government and people of France so generously rendered us. Through this act of compassion, you were being as much true to your own history, as you were asserting a place of honour among the legion that said no to apartheid!

We know that you understand our feelings. Not only because of your commitment to our freedom, but because your nation and your people have known oppression and discrimination. Humanity bled when this country was invaded, and occupied, and death and destruction were visited upon it people just over half-a-century ago. But you rose from the ashes and restored democracy.

We who have just emerged from centuries of deprivation and tyranny draw inspiration from your indomitable spirit. We draw confidence from your friendship and support.

Mr President, Ladies and gentlemen;

It gives me joy to see the youth of this country participating in this National Day. I admire young people who are concerned with the affairs of their community and nation, perhaps because I also became involved in struggle whilst I was still at school. With such youth we can be sure that the ideals we celebrate today will never be extinguished. Young people care capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.

In South Africa the youth played a pivotal role in our liberation. They braved bullets with stones. Some sacrificed their youth and dedicated their entire life to the struggle. Now they are harnessing their own energies and creativity as fighters for reconstruction and development. They are nurturing the skills and talents which will make them the leaders of tomorrow and the producers of our nation's wealth.

It is such youth, and youth such as yourselves, that will shoulder the destiny of mankind into the next century.

Mr President, Ladies and Gentlemen;

I would now like to propose a toast to His Excellency, President Jacques Chirac, the people of France, and the strong bonds of friendship between our nations.

A votre sante!

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation