Statement by Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu on Mandela Day 2012

CAPE TOWN: 16 July 2012 – The greatest gift our nation could possibly give uTata Nelson Mandela for his 94th birthday this week would be to emulate his magnanimity and grace.

I would like to encourage the millions of South Africans preparing to roll up their sleeves to do good deeds for others on Mandela Day to spend a few quiet moments to contemplate Mr Mandela’s gift to us.

He understood that love was a fundamental building block for our new nation, that it was infinitely preferable to create an environment in which all South Africans would swim in more or less the same direction rather than one in which those who could afford to would migrate north.

His willingness to listen to others, to solicit and acknowledge all points of view, to place reconciliation and national unity at the forefront of the agenda, to set an example of forgiveness and tolerance following a lifetime of bitter oppression, inspired tremendous pride and hope in us all.

Mr Mandela taught us to love ourselves, to love one another and to love our country. He laid the table so that all South Africans could eat; we must ensure all members of the family are invited.

* Archbishop Tutu will be at Free State University on 18 July, lecturing future leaders.