Jul 19, 2022
Prince Harry delivers speech at U.N. on Nelson Mandela International Day Transcript
Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex, gave a keynote speech at the U.N. General Assembly for its annual celebration of Nelson Mandela International Day. Read the transcript here.
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Prince Harry: (00:00)
It is an honor to join you all on Nelson Mandela International Day. Having spent time with many of Mandela’s family members over the years, I speak to you today with humility, mindful of how much the man they loved means to so many.
Prince Harry: (00:20)
Those of us not fortunate enough to know Mandela well, have come to understand the man through his legacy. The letters he wrote alone in his prison cell, the speeches he delivered to his people, and those incredible shirts that he sported.
Prince Harry: (00:40)
We’ve also come to know him through the photographs of a person who, even when confronting unimaginable cruelty and injustice, almost always had a smile on his face. For me, there’s one photo in particular that stands out. On my wall, and in my heart every day, is an image of my mother and Mandela meeting in Cape Town in 1997. The photo was presented to me by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose friendship and inspiration were their own treasured gift.
Prince Harry: (01:16)
In our own time, a time of global uncertainty and division, when it’s all too easy to look around and feel anger or despair, I’ve been inspired to go back to Mandela’s writings for insight into how this could be. How he could experience so much darkness and always managed to find the light. There, I found a few lines that stopped me in my tracks. In a letter from prison, he wrote, “I feel my heart pumping hope steadily to every part of my body, warming my blood and pepping up my spirits. I am convinced that floods of personal disaster can never drown a determined revolutionary. To a freedom fighter, hope is what a life belt is to a swimmer, a guarantee that one will keep afloat and free from danger.” It moved me even more when I saw the date, August 1st 1970, 7 years into Mandela’s imprisonment, not even one-third of the way through.
Prince Harry: (02:28)
This has been a painful year in a painful decade. We’re living through a pandemic that continues to ravage communities in every corner of the globe. Climate change wreaking havoc on our planet, with the most vulnerable suffering most of all. The few weaponizing lies and disinformation at the expense of the many. And from a horrific war in Ukraine, to the rolling back of constitutional rights here in the United States, we are witnessing a global assault on democracy and freedom, the cause of Mandela’s life.
Prince Harry: (03:07)
According to Freedom House, our world has grown less free every year, for more than a decade and a half. This is a pivotal moment, a moment where multiple converging crises have given way to an endless string of injustices. A moment where ordinary people around the world are experiencing extraordinary pain. And in this moment, we have a choice to make. We can grow apathetic, succumb to anger, or yield to despair, surrendering to the gravity of what we’re up against, or we can do what Mandela did every single day inside that seven by nine foot prison cell on Robben Island, and every day outside of it too.
Prince Harry: (03:57)
We can find meaning and purpose in the struggle. We can wear our principles as armor. Heed the advice Mandela once gave his son, to never give up the battle even in the darkest hour.
Prince Harry: (04:10)
If we can see one another’s humanity just as he did, a better day will truly be on the horizon. Thank you.