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Last Updated August 7, 2006

F.W. de Klerk - November 8 1994

SPEECH BY EXECUTIVE DEPUTY PRESIDENT F W DE KLERK TO THE KENNEDY POLITICAL UNION OF THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY, WASHINGTON: 8 NOVEMBER 1994

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

Most of the audiences that I have addressed in the course of my current overseas visit have been businessmen. They have been interested in prospects for the growth of the South African economy, in the dry statistics of government deficits and trade surpluses. These things are important and our future will to a large extent be determined by our success in the economic sphere - but they are by no means the only factor that we will have to consider.

Economic growth is not a goal in itself. It is but one of the important prerequisites for the achievement of specific goals - goals defined and directed by a vision for one's country, one's university or for oneself.

Against this background I would today like to focus much more on the broader vision we have for our country, South Africa.

What is "vision"?

The story of mankind's progress has been the story of visions transformed into reality; of exceptional individuals and societies that have had the special gift of being able to accept new challenges and to break out of old worlds.

This holds true for acts of creation throughout the whole broad sweep of human history - from the construction of the first pyramid to the vision of President Kennedy to put a man on the moon.

It holds true for the great innovators, for the giants such as Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, and Wilbur and Orville Wright.

But it also holds true for countless millions of ordinary people: for anyone who has ever had the dream of starting his own business; or of building a new house; or of obtaining a university education against the odds; or embarking on any of the countless ventures that help us to improve our lives and the lives of our communities.

Our societies have been formed - and reformed - by the vision of great men and women who rejected the deficiencies and injustices of their times, who were able to visualise something better; and who had the skill and perseverance to translate their dreams into realities.

Such men drafted your Declaration of Independence. Your society continues to be guided to this day by their vision that "all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

Their statement - that Governments are instituted among men to secure these rights and that they derive their just powers from the governed - was a vision. The founding fathers of your nation had to fight a bitter revolutionary war to bring that vision into reality.

It was a vision that continued to guide your nation in the two centuries that followed, through the years of your growth and expansion and the years of your dreadful Civil War. Abraham Lincoln referred to it when he spoke on the Gettysburg battlefield. He reaffirmed the vision of your founding fathers and called upon his countrymen to ensure that government of the people, by the people and for the people should not perish from the earth.

More recently, Dr Martin Luther King articulated a dream of America that would extend to all its people the rights envisioned in the Declaration of Independence and in your Constitution. The dream that he articulated so effectively helped to change a reality that was unacceptable.

Today, as your nation once again goes to the polls, you are all the beneficiaries of these men of vision.

A vision of a better, and more peaceful South Africa was also the departure point for the transformation of our country. At the end of 1989 we looked around us and realised that the time had come to break out of the cycle of conflict, tension and violent struggle in which we had been embroiled for decades.

We realised that the leaders of all our important political parties would have to begin to talk together about a new dispensation; that we would have to reach agreements by way of dialogue and discussion - rather than by trying to force our views on one another through violence or repression.

We formulated a vision for a New South Africa that would include:

This year is South Africa's 1776. It marks the birth of our new nation. Since 11 May we have witnessed remarkable developments:

There can be no doubt that we have made great progress toward the realisation of the vision that we set for the country on 2 February 1990. However, there is no room for complacency. Much work lies ahead to consolidate the progress that we have made.

Vision is something that never ends. It is the opposite of stagnation.

So it is now with us in South Africa. With great difficulty and tenacity we have reached the first horizon on which we had set our sights: that of a successful and peaceful transition to democracy. Having climbed to the top of this mountain we observe before us new horizons. We see unknown territory ahead that must be charted and wildernesses that must be traversed.

We cannot afford the luxury of subsiding into complacency, of resting too long beneath shady trees or of dallying by the river bank. We must pick up our load and set off in pursuit of new visions.

We have a vision of a prosperous country.

We see ourselves becoming part of the great process of economic growth that is transforming societies from Malaysia to Mexico; from China to Chile. We will show that we in Africa will also succeed. We reject those who talk about the marginalisation of our continent, who believe that history has consigned it to a backwater.

We will show that this is not so. We will use our bountiful resources to become the first African economic success story. Those resources include:

And when we succeed with our economic miracle we have another vision.

We have a vision that we will help to take the entire souther Aftican region with us toward prosperity. There are 110 million people in the eleven countries that make up our region. These countries have tremendous human and natural resources. We have already started to work together more closely towards forming our own economic community. We stand on the threshold of unlocking the enormous potential of our region.

The route to the relaisation of this vision of greater prosperity is the same route that other successful emerging economics have taken. It includes:

We have another vision: it is a vision of a caring society. The main purposes of achieving economic growth and prosperity will be to generate the wealth that we need to create a better life for millions of our people. It is for this reason that we, in the Government of National Unity, have launched a unique Reconstruction and Development Programme.

The RDP is the centre-piece of the policy of the Government of National Unity. It envisages a broad interlocking programme that will address the total spectrum of socio-economic needs. It provides our vision for:

All of the parties in the government support the Reconstruction and Development Programme. The success of the Government of National Unity -and, indeed, of our new constitutional dispensation - will be judged by the degree to which the RDP succeeds in bringing this vision into reality.

We have a vision of a co-operative society.

We have one of the most complex societies on earth. We are not like the United States. We have never had the kind of common unifying system of values that your Declaration of Independence and Constitution contain. Our country includes many peoples with differing traditions and ways of viewing the world. We have a long, unhappy and very recent history of conflict and confrontation.

Fore these reasons we cannot afford the luxury of traditional confrontational politics. If we are to succeed in realizing the kind of national vision that I described this afternoon, we will have to work with one another, and not against one another. We have already started to do this in the Government of National Unity. We have a vision of a New South Africa in which:

Our future success as a nation will depend on our ability to establish a Co­operative Society. I see a New South Africa in which principles of co­operation will permeate every aspect of our politics, our economy and our communal and personal relations. Co-operation in this context means that:

South Africans of all political parties and from all our communities are beginning to share this common vision. There is a growing national commitment:

Many people may be sceptical about our ability to translate this vision of South Africa into reality.

But, as the song goes - they all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round. They scoffed at Thomas Edison and at the Wright brothers. They were also sceptical about the vision that we in South Africa spelled out on 2 February 1990 for the transformation of our society. Well, the sceptics were wrong:

The world has always, and will always, belong to those who have the ability to dream great and seemingly unattainable dreams - and the determination and faith to turn those dreams into reality.

We in South Africa have that ability. We have the faith and determination. We will turn our vision into reality.

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President John F. Kennedy spoke at American University's Spring Commencement on June 10, 1963. In this speech Kennedy called on the Soviet Union to work with the United States to achieve a nuclear test ban treaty and help reduce the considerable international tensions and the specter of nuclear war at that time. (text of speech)

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