FORMER US President Barack Obama looks forward addressing thousands of guests at his Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture at Wanderers Stadium, Johannesburg on July 17.
“It gives him an opportunity to lift up a message of tolerance, inclusivity and democracy at a time when there are obviously challenges to Mandela’s legacy around the world,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, a former speechwriter for Obama who still advises him.
“Mandela,” he added, “endured far darker times than anything we’re enduring today.”
Obama must deliver a more ambitious, activist, and forward-looking address than his eloquent remarks at Mandela’s memorial, in December 2013. That’s because much has changed politically in the five years since then. The world is in a much more precarious place.
Drawing on Mandela’s legacy, Obama can help the world better understand the nature of the threats to all democratic experiments. This includes correcting and preventing corruption and abuses of power.
The Obama Foundation will convene 200 young African leaders in Johannesburg during the week prior to Obama’s address to study and debate Mandela’s legacy and leadership attributes. Selected from among 10,000 applicants, they are a vital regional component in the foundation’s broader goal to help develop future leaders among Millennials those aged 24-40.
They must be ready to sustain democracies amid growing unrest created by uncontrolled migrations, epidemics, famine, state failures, and climate change.
Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. “I am not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying”.
And that’s why we learned so much from him, and why we can learn from him still. For nothing he achieved was inevitable.
Yes, we await with bated breath Obama’s address, albeit different opinions have been said about him while US President: whether he’s a saint or not?
On a personal note, much of Obama’s time is spent working on his presidential memoir. He has largely steered clear of domestic politics, though aides said they expected him to return to the campaign trail as the midterm elections draw closer.
At the time of publishing it was unclear if his charming wife Michelle will be part of the traveling crew.
Meanwhile, President Cyril Ramaphosa and his three predecessors will host the presidents of Botswana, Liberia and Cape Verde, former presidents of Botswana, Ireland and Finland, former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan and British billionaire Richard Branson.
It’s a joint initiative by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Motsepe Foundation.
President Ramaphosa, Former Presidents Jacob Zuma, Kgalema Motlanthe and Thabo Mbeki will speak ahead of the lecture to be attended by eminent persons and international celebrities.
The official program will start at 2pm and Thandiswa Mazwai, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Soweto Gospel Choir, Kirk Whalum and Peter Gabriel will grace the occasion.