It is no surprise that, in death as in life, Nelson Mandela has caused us to gaze upon humanity with warmth and optimism. I am sure I am not alone in having taken a great deal of pleasure from reading the celebrations of his life and reflecting on how different tomorrow would look were it not for him.
No more so than Sarah Boseley’s article in The Guardian on Friday . She deals with the way in which Nelson Mandela changed the HIV/AIDS agenda. Her piece focuses on Nelson Mandela’s speech at the international Aids conference in Durban in 2000 – arguably a key turning point in the fight against the disease. His words refocused the minds of warring scientists, activists and politicians, on tackling what mattered most: the human tragedy being played out on the African continent.
Sarah Boseley inspired me to dig out the text of his speech and here it is. I hope you will find just five minutes today to read it. Even on the page it is a beautiful piece of oratory. You can hear Nelson Mandela’s voice so clearly.
Two extracts struck me as particularly relevant to the discussions at the G8 Dementia Summit in London tomorrow:
“Now, however, the ordinary people of the continent and the world – and particularly the poor who on our continent will again carry a disproportionate burden of this scourge – would, if anybody cared to ask their opinion, wish that the dispute about the primacy of politics or science be put on the backburner and that we proceed to address the needs and concerns of those suffering and dying. And this can only be done in partnership.
I come from a long tradition of collective leadership, consultative decision-making and joint action towards the common good. We have to overcome much that many thought insurmountable through an adherence to those practices. In the face of the grave threat posed by HIV/AIDS, we have to rise above our differences and combine our efforts to save our people. History will judge us harshly if we fail to do so now, and right now.”
“The challenge is to move from rhetoric to action, and action at an unprecedented intensity and scale. There is a need for us to focus on what we know works.
We need to break the silence, banish stigma and discrimination, and ensure total inclusiveness within the struggle against AIDS; those who are infected with this terrible disease do not want stigma, they want love.”
I am not making a comparison between HIV/AIDS and dementia. But Nelson Mandela’s words embrace eternal themes that are well worth remembering on the eve of tomorrow’s summit.
The G8 Dementia Summit programme was published yesterday and can be found here. The website will also have coverage of the meeting all day tomorrow I believe.
My good friend, colleague, former carer to her mum, Peggy, and campaigner, Susie Hewer, has a piece on the dementia summit website about her own experiences with dementia and what the summit means for her here.
My previous blog on the G8 Dementia Summit can be found here.
BBC coverage of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service taking place in Soweto today is here.