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‘The People Are Honored to Stand With You’

In a midday ceremony today on the steps of City Hall, Mayor Tom Bradley is to welcome Nelson Mandela to Los Angeles. Here is the mayor’s prepared greeting to Mandela:

Nelson Mandela, welcome to Los Angeles.

Throughout your 27 years of imprisonment, Mr. Mandela, the people of the world drew strength from your courage and tenacity. The vicious apartheid regime shackled your body, but it could not imprison your spirit. Your soul has flown free and far, kindred with the spirits of Martin Luther King Jr. and Kennedy and those who challenge us to be better than we are.

The reception and adulation you have received around the world have made you an international hero. To those who faced tanks in Tian An Men Square, machine guns in Eastern Europe and drugs and despair on the mean streets of the urban world, you have shown the way. Your presence here today proves that the human spirit can overcome even the greatest of evils.

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Now, Mr. Mandela, you have flashed across our nation, like a bolt of lightning, illuminating all that is good in us. I recall the single most inspiring moment of my life, standing among hundreds of thousands before the Lincoln Memorial, listening to Martin Luther King speak of his dream for America. My life was never the same after that moment. Mr. Mandela, I wonder how many lives you have changed. How many in the past few days have stood, rapt, listening to your remarkable words? You have looked into the faces of our future, Mr. Mandela, and you have inspired people around the world to greatness. You have changed our lives. You have raised hope where there was despair. You have given courage to dream the seemingly impossible.

Today we pledge anew to continue our fight against the cruel system of government by racialism that oppresses the majority of people in South Africa. We will resist the policy that shrivels the human instinct for justice and fairness in the minority that now holds power.

It wasn’t so long ago that the policy of the United States toward South Africa was shameful and unworthy. Instead of the last, best hope on earth, the national government of the United States of America had become the last, best friend of apartheid.

But the people of this country refused to follow the bankrupt philosophies of their national leaders. And in cities such as Los Angeles, strong sanctions were invoked against South Africa. States and universities followed our lead. Finally, the Congress of the United States overrode the President’s veto and imposed economic sanctions. Those sanctions broke the back of resistance of the apartheid regime.

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We have come too far, and you have achieved too much, for us to turn our backs on you now. I say to you today, Mr. Mandela, and to you, Mr. de Klerk, that our sanctions will remain in force until the scourge of apartheid has been banished once and for all.

The people of Los Angeles are honored to stand with you, Mr. Mandela. We cannot possibly understand the depth of the evil you are fighting, or the measures you are taking to protect your children from starvation and torture. But we do understand your place in history. It is a rare place, reserved for the remarkable few who have unshackled whole peoples from the yoke of oppression.

You have brought happiness to those who have felt only sadness. You have brought love to those who have felt only hate. Mr. Mandela, you have taken on the greatest oppressors of all, and you have won.

On behalf of our people, I am privileged to welcome you to Los Angeles.

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