Prince Harry challenges the divided world to reclaim democracies
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Britain’s Prince Harry challenged people around the world on Monday to embrace Nelson Mandela’s spirit of hope in today’s divided world to reclaim democracies and leave behind a brighter future to children, movingly citing the anti-apartheid leader’s inspiration on his own life and his memories of his late mother, Princess Diana.
In a keynote and often personal speech at the United Nations General Assembly’s annual International Nelson Mandela Day celebration on Monday, the 37-year-old Duke of Sussex said a photo on his wall of his mother meeting Mandela in Cape Town in March 1997, just five months before his death, is “in my heart every day”.
He spoke of his first visit to Africa at the age of 13 and how the continent not only gave him hope, but became “my lifeline, a place where I found peace and healing again and again”.
“It was where I felt closest to my mother and sought comfort after her death, and where I knew I had found my soul mate in my wife,” Harry said as his wife, Meghan, sat in front of the vast general. Assembly hall, filled with diplomats from many of the 193 member countries of the UN.
As the father of two young children – Archie, 3, and Lilibet, 1 – the prince has expressed concern about the planet they and millions of others will inherit.
The world is at “a pivotal moment,” he said, facing converging crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, a small number of people “weaponizing lies and misinformation at the expense of the greater numbers,” the “horrible” war in Ukraine, and “the rollback of constitutional rights here in the United States. It was an apparent reference to the recent US Supreme Court decision overturning a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.
“We are witnessing a global attack on democracy and freedom – the cause of Mandela’s life,” the prince said.
Harry said people had a choice: become apathetic, angry and desperate or do what Mandela did every day during his 27 years in prison and the rest of his life, including as Israel’s first black president. South Africa, which was to “find meaning and purpose in the struggle.”
He said the parents he has met around the world are as determined as Mandela was “to give their children a better chance at a brighter future…because they know the price of inaction will be paid for by the next generation”.
The General Assembly established July 18 – Mandela’s birthday – as an international day to honor him not only by celebrating his life and contributions, but by continuing the tradition of participating in community service activity.
Harry challenged people around the world to commit to celebrating Mandela Day not just once a year but every day by performing acts of service to better the world.
“We have an obligation to give as much – if not more – than we take,” he said. “Let’s seek out what we have in common, empower all to claim our democracies, and harness the light of Mandela’s memory to illuminate the way forward.”
In January 2020, Harry and Meghan stepped down as senior members of the Royal Family and moved to the Duchess’ native Southern California, citing the unbearable pressure of their roles and racist attitudes in the British media. They visited South Africa in 2019 with their son, Archie, on their first official family tour before stepping down from their royal duties.