Speeches by Nelson Mandela - Interactive Feature - NYTimes.com:
Amid the encomiums it should be remembered that in America most political figures kept their distance from Nelson Mandela during his 27 years in prison because he was allied with the Communist Party. Conservatives here opposed the solidarity movement, saying that the boycott campaigns "hurt those they claimed to help, etc. The Swedes on the other hand were his most reliable democratic supporters. - GWC
Statement at the Cathedral of Uppsala
Uppsala, Sweden March 13, 1990
Imagine then how our hearts beat as your voices wafted across the great distances that separate us and penetrated through the prison walls, as over the walls of Jericho, to reach us in our cells. Every day we heard your voices ring — Free the political prisoners! We heard your voices sing — Let my people go!
As we heard that vibrant and invigorating cry of human concern, we knew that we would be free. We saw that no prison walls or guard dogs or even the cold seas that are like deadly moat surrounding Robben Island prison, could ever succeed to frustrate the desires of all humanity. We drew strength and sustenance from the knowledge that we were part of a greater humanity than our jailers could claim.
Intended for oblivion, we were discovered by the little people whom we had never met. They wrote to us to give us encouragement and hope. They celebrated our birthdays with us. They remembered us at Christmas. They defied the elements to demonstrate about us. They prayed for our freedom. They did what they could not afford, by contributing some of their earnings so that we could study and purchase what little we could to relieve the rigors of prison life.
In the end, the high and mighty also heard the voice of the little people. They too discovered that buried away in the dungeons of the Pretoria regime were men and women who should never been arrested in the first place. They too joined the noble chorus — Free the political prisoners.
We are here today to say thank you to you all and to the Swedish people that you insisted and persevered and by that insistence and perseverance succeeded to liberate some of us, so that we could rejoin our loved ones and our fellow fighters for freedom and so that we could see with our own eyes these human people, whose humanity demanded that they act to challenge the inhumanity which had condemned some of us to die in prison.
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