Reflections on Social Justice and the Role of Youth

On Saturday, 23 July 2011, the 9th Annual Nelson Mandela Lecture was held at the Linder Auditorium in Johannesburg. This year’s speaker was Prof. Ismail Serageldin – the Director of the Library of Alexandria in Egypt. In the wake of the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, hearing from an Egyptian national proved particularly interesting. His speech was titled: “The Making of Social Justice: Pluralism, Cohesion and Social Participation” and a large section focussed on the role of young people.

In one particularly inspiring section he declared:

To our youth, and to all youth, from the Cape to Cairo and beyond, I say: You have been called the children of the internet, or the Facebook generation, but you are more. You are the vanguard of the great global revolution of the 21st Century. So, go forth into the journey of your lives, to create a better world for yourselves and for others. Think of the unborn, remember the forgotten, give hope to the forlorn, include the excluded, reach out to the unreached, and by your actions from this day onwards lay the foundations for better tomorrows.

So get on with the task of creating Social Justice, based on Pluralism, Cohesion and Social Participation, and in so doing take us to a new country, a country where, in the words of Tagore…

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led by thee into ever-widening thought and action—-
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.”

Video of the full speech:

[youtube TWYtPJHabm8 640 510]

The transcript of the full speech is available on the Nelson Mandela Foundation‘s website.



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