Wangari Maathai: Nobel Lecture, Oslo (2004)

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Wangari Maathai, the Kenyan environmental and political activist gave this Nobel Lecture in Oslo, Norway after winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.

The video is an edited version of her speech. We recommend you read the full transcript which can be found here on the SoftKenya website with other famous speeches.

Wangari Maathai:
Majesties; Your Royal Highnesses; Honourable Members of the Norwegian Nobel Committee; Excellencies; Ladies and Gentlemen

I stand before you and the world humbled by this recognition and uplifted by the honour of being the 2004 Nobel Peace Laureate.

As the first African woman to receive this prize, I accept it on behalf of the people of Kenya and Africa, and indeed the whole world.

So, together, we have planted over 30 million trees that provide fuel, food, shelter, and income to support their children’s education and household needs. The activity also creates employment and improves soils and watersheds. Through their involvement, women gain some degree of power over their lives, especially their social and economic position and relevance in the family. This work continues.

Initially, the work was difficult because historically our people have been persuaded to believe that because they are poor, they lack not only capital, but also knowledge and skills to address their challenges. Instead they are conditioned to believe that their solutions to their problems must come from ‘outside’.

Although initially the Green Belt Movement’s tree planting activities did not address issues of democracy and peace, it soon became clear that responsible governance of the environment was impossible without democratic space. Therefore, the tree became a symbol for the democratic struggle in Kenya. Citizens were mobilised to challenge widespread abuses of power, corruption and environmental mismanagement. In Nairobi ‘s Uhuru Park, at Freedom Corner, and in many parts of the country, trees of peace were planted to demand the release of prisoners of conscience and a peaceful transition to democracy.

Through the Green Belt Movement, thousands of ordinary citizens were mobilized and empowered to take action and effect change. They learned to overcome fear and a sense of helplessness and moved to defend democratic rights.

In time, the tree also became a symbol of peace and conflict resolution, especially during the ethnic conflicts in Kenya when the Green Belt Movement used peace trees to reconcile disputing communities. During the ongoing re-writing of the constitution, similar trees of peace were planted in many parts of the country to promote a culture of peace. Using trees as a symbol of peace is in keeping with a widespread African tradition. For example in my own community, the man, the elders carried a staff from a tree called thigi. Whenever there were disputing sides, that staff was placed between them, and as soon as the elders placed that thege that staff between them, they stepped back, stopped fighting and went to seek the reconciliation. Many African communities have this heritage and tradition.

Such practises are part of an extensive cultural heritage, which contributes both to the conservation of habitats and to cultures of peace. With the destruction of these cultures and the introduction of new values, local biodiversity is no longer valued and protected and as a result, it is quickly degraded and disappears. For this reason, the Green Belt Movement explores the concept of cultural biodiversity, especially with respect to indigenous trees and medicinal plants.

As we progressively understood the causes of environmental degradation, we saw the need for good governance. Indeed, the state of any county’s environment is a reflection of the kind of governance in place, and without good governance there can be no peace. Many countries, which have poor governance systems, are also likely to have conflicts and poor laws protecting the environment.

In the year 2002, the courage, resilience, patience and commitment of members of the Green Belt Movement, other civil society organizations, and the Kenyan public culminated in the peaceful transition to a democratic government and laid the foundation for a more stable society.

Excellencies, friends, ladies and gentlemen, it is 30 years since we started this work. Activities that devastate the environment and societies continue unabated. Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed, to embrace the whole creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. This will happen if we see the need to revive our sense of belonging to a larger family of life, with which we have shared our evolutionary process.

As I conclude I reflect on my childhood experience when I would visit a stream next to our home to fetch water for my mother. I would drink water straight from the stream. Playing among the arrowroot leaves I tried in vain to pick up the strands of frogs’ eggs, believing they were beads. But every time I put my little fingers under them they would break. Later, I saw thousands of tadpoles: black, energetic and wriggling through the clear water against the background of the brown earth. This is the world I inherited from my parents.

Today, over 50 years later, the stream has dried up, women walk long distances for water, which is not always clean, and children will never know what they have lost. The challenge is to restore the home of the tadpoles and give back to our children a world of beauty and wonder.

Thank you very much.

Nelson Mandela: Inaugural Address, Pretoria, 1994

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Statement of the President of the African National Congress, Nelson Mandela, at his inauguration as president of South Africa, Union Buildings, Pretoria, May 10 1994. From the University of Pennsylvania website.

Nelson Mandela:Your Majesties, Your Highnesses, Distinguished Guests, Comrades and Friends:

Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty.

Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.

Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity’s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.

All this we owe both to ourselves and to the peoples of the world who are so well represented here today.

To my compatriots, I have no hesitation in saying that each one of us is as intimately attached to the soil of this beautiful country as are the famous jacaranda trees of Pretoria and the mimosa trees of the bushveld.

Each time one of us touches the soil of this land, we feel a sense of personal renewal. The national mood changes as the seasons change.

We are moved by a sense of joy and exhilaration when the grass turns green and the flowers bloom.

That spiritual and physical oneness we all share with this common homeland explains the depth of the pain we all carried in our hearts as we saw our country tear itself apart in a terrible conflict, and as we saw it spurned, outlawed and isolated by the peoples of the world, precisely because it has become the universal base of the pernicious ideology and practice of racism and racial oppression.

We, the people of South Africa, feel fulfilled that humanity has taken us back into its bosom, that we, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil.

We thank all our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession with the people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity.

We trust that you will continue to stand by us as we tackle the challenges of building peace, prosperity, non-sexism, non-racialism and democracy.

We deeply appreciate the role that the masses of our people and their political mass democratic, religious, women, youth, business, traditional and other leaders have played to bring about this conclusion. Not least among them is my Second Deputy President, the Honorable F.W. de Klerk.

We would also like to pay tribute to our security forces, in all their ranks, for the distinguished role they have played in securing our first democratic elections and the transition to democracy, from blood-thirsty forces which still refuse to see the light.

The time for the healing of the wounds has come.

The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.

The time to build is upon us.

We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.

We succeeded to take our last steps to freedom in conditions of relative peace. We commit ourselves to the construction of a complete, just and lasting peace.

We have triumphed in the effort to implant hope in the breasts of the millions of our people. We enter into a covenant that we shall build the society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity–a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world.

As a token of its commitment to the renewal of our country, the new Interim Government of National Unity will, as a matter of urgency, address the issue of amnesty for various categories of our people who are currently serving terms of imprisonment.

We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.

Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward.

We are both humbled and elevated by the honor and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, to lead our country out of the valley of darkness.

We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.

We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.

We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.

Let there be justice for all.

Let there be peace for all.

Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.

Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.

Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.

Let freedom reign.

The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!

God bless Africa!

Thank you.

Kelly McDonald: ‘The Girl in the Café’, 2005

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From the British film The Girl in the Café (2005): Kelly McDonald plays Gina, a girl who falls in love with Lawrence (Bill Nighy) a top civil servant. At a dinner of the G8 leaders she speaks out against poverty. Read the complete film transcript here at Script-O-Rama.com.

Note: ‘indent’ means to make a dent or impression, a small change or effect, and that’s the word given in the transcript. But I think the Prime Minister says “end debt,” although this doesn’t make sense in the sentence. If you would like to see the movie and work out for yourself, get a copy of the DVD here.

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (Corin Redgrave): Five years ago, the world made a series of the most magnificent promises. And we have determined to use this conference seriously to indent the most extreme curses of poverty in the world today. We shall not let them out of our sights, even if we may not yet have the power to fulfill them all.

Gina: That’s not true. That’s not true…

Prime Minister: Aah, I’m sorry Madam, but heckling isn’t really a tradition at these gatherings.

Gina: What are the traditions, then? Well-crafted compromise and just sort of ignoring the poor?

Prime Minister: Perhaps we can talk about this later?

Gina: I doubt it. I imagine I’ll be thrown out later so it’s probably got to be now. I don’t know how much the rest of you ladies know about what’s going on, but my friend here tells me that while we are eating, a hundred million children are nearly starving. There’s just millions of kids who’d kill for the amount of food that fat old me left on the side of my plate – children who are then so weak they’ll die if a mosquito bites them. And so, they do die, one every three seconds.

There they go. And another one.

Anyone who has kids knows that every mother and father in Africa must love their children as much as they do. And to watch your kids die, to watch them die and then to die yourself in trying to protect them – that’s not right. And tomorrow, eight of the men sitting ’round this table actually have the ability to sort this out by making a few great decisions. And if they don’t, someday, someone else will, and they’ll look back on us lot and say: ‘People were actually dying in their millions unnecessarily, in front of you, on your TV screens. What were you thinking? You knew what to do to stop it happening and you didn’t do those things. Shame on you.’

So that’s what you have to do tomorrow. Be great, instead of being ashamed. It can’t be impossible. It must be possible..

Prime Minister: As I was saying before I was so cogently interrupted…

(End of transcript)

Nelson Mandela: Supreme Court, Pretoria, 1964

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Conclusion of Nelson Mandela’s court statement at the opening of his trial on charges of sabotage, Supreme Court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20 1964.

You can find the full transcript on the Guardian newspaper site.

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.