Mandela turns 85, Annan says to follow his example to better the world

18 July 2003

Paying tribute to Nelson Mandela on the former South African President's 85th birthday, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said the only way to truly express gratitude for his contribution to humanity is for everyone to work daily to follow his example.

"If we could live up to just one fraction of the standards you have set for yourself, then Africa, and the world, would be a far, far better place," Mr. Annan says in a letter to Mr. Mandela, whom he calls "probably the single most admired, most respected international figure in the world."

Mr. Mandela has inspired millions of people across several generations throughout the globe and worked tirelessly for healing and reconciliation, peace and development, and the right of every child to health and education, Mr. Annan states.

In a foreword included in a tribute book on Mr. Mandela, the Secretary-General says, "People often ask me what difference one person can make in the face of injustice, conflict, human rights violations, mass poverty and disease. I answer by citing the courage, tenacity, dignity and magnanimity of Nelson Mandela."

Mr. Annan pays tribute to Mr. Mandela's steadfast refusal to compromise his beliefs during long years of incarceration and "his willingness to embrace and reconcile with those who persecuted him the most, and the grace with which he stuck to and the grace with which he stuck to his promise to serve only one presidential term of office."

The book, entitled "Nelson Mandela. From Freedom to the Future," was presented to the former President yesterday.


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