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Today the thoughts of a nation, and of many of our friends worldwide, turn to the legacy of Nelson Mandela. As we commemorate a year since receiving the tragic news of his passing, we have been urged to observe a period of silence followed by the singing of our national anthem.

In that moment, let us remember the more noble aspects of South Africa’s story. Let us set aside the contentions, divisions and challenges that occupy so much of our attention in 2014, and consider again the birth of our democracy. Despite the pains of labour, the birth of democracy brought us the opportunity for hope, reconciliation, unity and justice. These are alive wherever democracy thrives.

The legacy of Nelson Mandela is synonymous with the birth of democracy. Thus, as we remember Madiba, we remember all that we struggled for and all that we won. We also remember all that we must strive to protect, preserve and strengthen. That is the responsibility our first democratic President placed on our shoulders. In his memory, and for the sake of our future, we must fulfil it.

Today should not be a day for sorrow. We miss Madiba, but he will always be with us. He is part of our shared story and each of us, no matter where we come from or what language we speak, feels a sense of participation in honouring his legacy. He continues to unite us, even now.

I treasure my own personal memories of my life-long friend. My family and I remember Mandela the man, as well as Mandela the statesman. He was a remarkable human being, on whom history thrust an enormous task. Leaders from his generation who still serve South Africa are honoured to continue this legacy. We will do everything in our power to fulfill the responsibility of strengthening democracy, so that the hope of unity, reconciliation and justice will stay alive.

We thank you, Madiba.