Winners Selected for DROP: A Story of Triumph National Creative Expressions Contest

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karen Carrington, 202-210-4005

The Positive Change Foundation, in affiliation with Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC) has selected winners for the National Creative Expressions Contest, based on the film, “DROP: A Story of Triumph.” Nine winners from Middle and High Schools and a Homeschool have been selected from schools including Darnell Cookman Middle/High School of the Medical Arts, Jacksonville, Florida; Pittsburgh School for Creative and Performing Arts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; South Carolina Virtual Charter School, in Columbia, and Dr. Phinnize J. Fisher Middle School, in Greenville, South Carolina; Luke C. Moore Senior High School, Muhammad’s Homeschool Coop; and H. D Woodson High School in Washington, D.C. The purpose of the Creative Expressions Contest was to provide youth an opportunity to express their reactions to messages about dropping out of school, portrayed in the film “DROP: A Story of Triumph,” produced by Black Women for Positive Change.

The National Creative Expressions Contest attracted 109 applications from 18 states and the District of Columbia. Seventy-six (76) youth completed contest submissions and entered essays, poems, videos and drawings. Contestants were from 52 high schools, middle schools and a homeschool. Winners won prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. In a joint statement National Co-Chairs Dr. Stephanie Myers and Honorable Daun S. Hester stated, “We sponsored the Creative Expression Contest as part of the 6th Annual Week of Positive Change, Non-Violence and Opportunities. We appreciate the support of our major sponsors American Family Insurance, Saint and Streetfighter Foundation, and Highmark Inc., and other partners. Their donations enabled us to provide youth rewards for winning essays, poems, drawings and videos. The views of the youth are powerful and describe the challenges they face regarding staying in school, the dire results of dropping out, and the importance of family support when pursuing education, during and after high school.

Tom Johnson, President and CEO of the Saint and Streetfighter Foundation said, “The Saint and Streetfighter Foundation is dedicated to fighting for social justice and reducing gun violence in the United States. When we keep our nation’s children in school, our communities are strengthened, and our children are made stronger – intellectually, emotionally and physically – able to go forward with the education that will enable them to achieve more in life instead of a path that increases their exposure to gun violence. We are thrilled to support DROP and the Creative Expressions Contest developed by Black Women for Positive Change and the Positive Change Foundation. We are excited that students have viewed the video and eloquently expressed their views about the importance of education and staying in school.”

The National Creative Expressions Contest was managed by Dr. Stephanie Myers, President of the Positive Change Foundation and BW4PC National Co-Chair, Karen Carrington, Creative Expressions Contest Committee Chair; and Nadira Akina, Creative Expressions Contest Administrator. A team of 12 Volunteer Judges evaluated the submissions and selected the winners. Interviews with the winners who are minors, may be available to the press on a request basis.



Produced by Black Women for Positive Change

Black Women for Positive Change Announces 2018 Week of Non-Violence

For Immediate Release
Contact: Karen Carrington, 202-210-4005

(Washington, D.C.) Black Women for Positive Change, (BW4PC) in affiliation with the Positive Change Foundation, announces the Sixth Annual 2018 Week of Non-Violence, Justice and Opportunities, October 13-21, 2018. In a joint statement, Daun S. Hester and Dr. Stephanie E. Myers, National Co-Chairs of Black Women for Positive Change said, “We are reaching out to leaders around the United States and the World, to join us in the sixth annual Week of Non-Violence, Justice and Opportunities. We are honored that an outstanding group of leaders are joining this effort to promote the concepts of violence prevention, anger management, and de-escalation of violence. This year the theme is ‘Opportunities As Alternatives to Violence.’ The goal is to inspire communities and families, to actively change the culture of violence by helping youth to pursue opportunities as alternatives to violence.”  In 2017, forty cities participated in the United States, United Kingdom, South Africa and Republic of Congo.

The 2018 National Honorary Co-Chairs for the Week of Non-Violence, Justice and Opportunities are: Congresswoman Gwen Moore, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Dr. Charles Steele, President and CEO of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference; Michelle Bernard, Esq., MSNBC News Anchor and President/CEO, the Bernard Center for Women; Antonio Knox, Immediate Past Grand Basileus, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity; Tamika Mallory, National Co-Chair, The Women’s March; and Kemba Smith, Social Justice Advocate. An Honorary Co-Chair of Baltimore, Maryland, is John Olszewski, Jr.

In accepting the role of National Honorary Co-Chair Congresswoman Gwen Moore stated, ““As a Black woman, it’s easy to get discouraged about the state of America. Day in and day out, we find ourselves at the intersection of oppression and injustice. I am proud to join Black Women for Positive Change in declaring that we shall overcome these times. Progress is on the horizon. In our hearts and in our Congress, hatred will not win.”

Partners for the Week of Non-Violence include National Black Nurses Association, Moms Demand Action, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Next Generation Action Network, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, North Carolina Central Law School,  Saints and Streetfighters Foundation, Wednesday Clergy Fellowship (partial listing) To find out more information or sign up for the 2018 Week of Non-Violence, Justice and Opportunities, go to For media questions or interviews please contact, Karen Carrington, National Communications Chair, at 202-210-4005.

About Black Women for Positive Change

Black Women for Positive Change is a national, interfaith, multicultural network of volunteer women, “Good Brothers” youth and millennials. Participants in the 2017 Week of Non-Violence were in Alabama, Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin and the United Kingdom, Republic of South Africa and Republic of Congo. Interviews are available.

The mission of Black Women for Positive Change is: (1) To strengthen and expand the American Middle/Working class, with an emphasis on the African American community; and (2) To Change the Culture of Violence in America, and the World.  The 2018 Week of Non-Violence, Justice and Opportunities, October 13-21, 2018 is one of the organization’s major initiatives.

Contact: Karen Carrington

Twitter: @WKOfNViolence
Hashtag: #WKOFNViolence
Instagram: WKOfNViolence
FB: Week of Non- Violence
FB: Black Women for Positive Change




Mar 22, 2017

Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC), a national civic organization, announces release of the
short-film, “DROP: A Story of Triumph.” DROP is dedicated to discouraging high school students from
dropping out of school. The film features actor Tray Chaney, formerly of HBO’s ‘The Wire,’ actors
Jordan Norris, Dominque Spencer, and a crew of new actors. In a joint statement, Virginia Delegate
Daun S. Hester and Dr. Stephanie E. Myers, National Co-Chairs of Black Women for Positive Change
said, “Our goal with DROP is to discourage students from dropping out of school. We are shocked at
statistics that show dropping out is a pathway to prison for young men and women. We want to be
sure students understand the risks they are taking when they drop out and how this affects their
futures and can lead them towards poverty and/or prison.”

Chaka Balamani, of Maryland, is Director of DROP. The film highlights the struggles of a young man
who is demoralized, confused and contemplating dropping out of school. “This 39- minute film is a
must see for students, parents and teachers,” said Karen Carrington, BW4PC National Co-Chair of
Media and Events, “DROP: A Story of Triumph” is available via live steam at ; a 2-minute trailer is available on YouTube; and DVDs
can be ordered at:

A 2014 Brookings Institute Study reports a 70% chance that African American men without high school
diplomas, will be imprisoned by their mid-thirties. Statistics from the National Center for
Education indicate black girls drop out of high school almost twice as often as white girls and,
while high school graduation rates have improved in recent years, over 750,000 students still drop
out of school per year, in the United States.

Black Women for Positive Change and the Positive Change Foundation are Executive Producers of the
film. Funding was provided by sponsors including the United Steelworkers Union, the National Black
Nurses Association, Rev. Dr. Barbara Reynolds, author of the new biography of Coretta Scott King,
Bishop Edwin Bass, representing Church of God in Christ, Poise Foundation, of Pittsburgh, PA, AT
Winds Foundation and donor/members of the BW4PC Network. For information
contact Karen Carrington, at 202-210-4005 or, 202-327-4301.

Black Women for Positive change
Preserving and Strengthening the Middle/Working Class “Changing the Culture of Violence in America”
1220 L. Street, NW, #100-181, Washington, DC 20005; Fax 202-403-3743;
For Immediate Release Contact: Karen Carrington, 202-210-4005

Black Women for Positive Change Marched in Seven U.S. Cities

Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC) members participated in Sister Marches across the nation as
part of the 2017 National Women’s March. Networkers marched in 7 U.S. Cities including Washington,
D.C., Baltimore, Maryland; Hampton Roads, Virginia; Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California,
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Omaha, Nebraska and Ayer, Massachusetts. Virginia State Delegate Daun S.
Hester, National Co-Chair, BW4PC who marched at the Hampton Roads, Virginia Sister March said,
“There were over 1,000 people at the Hampton Roads, Virginia Sister March. Our goal was to
emphasize the importance of women’s voices being heard regarding healthcare, education, the
environment, business opportunities and all of the new policies planned for the nation”
Daun S. Hester, National BW4PC Co-Chair, at Hampton Roads Sister March (Red cape on right side of

BW4PC Co-Chair in Baltimore, Maryland, Danyell Winkey-Smith and Sharon McCollough led a team of 50
people from Baltimore to Washington, D.C. Ms. Smith observed, “The Women’s March was amazing. There
were people from all over the country/world and they were so pleasant and so helpful. Hundreds of
people made a path for our members who were pushing their children in strollers. They shouted
‘stroller brigade coming through!’ There were women of different races wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’

There were women of different races wearing ‘Black Lives Matter’
T-Shirts and shouting Black Lives Matter; lots of men with their daughters; democrats, republicans
and independents were marching as one. You could feel the love and support from everyone.” BW4PC

BW4PC Baltimore marchers included Alia McCants, Alvin Garcia, Pamela Pitt, Edie Jenkins, Elaine Kasmer,
Ralph Brown, Linda Walker-Dorsey and many others. Donors that supported the Baltimore marchers
were: Senator Nathaniel McFadden, States Attorney 1220 L. Street, NW, #100-181, Washington, DC 20005; Fax 202-403-3743;
Black Women for Positive change Preserving and Strengthening the Middle/Working Class “Changing the Culture of Violence in America”
Marilyn Mosby, Delegates Benjamin Brooks, Cheryl Glenn, Dr. Jay Jalisi and The Baltimore County

Anna Marie Gire was the organizer for the Pittsburgh Sisters march that included 25,000 women.
Diane Powell, Chair, BW4PC said, “We were glad to see young women, older women, men, black and
white and Latino marchers in Pittsburgh. It seemed like the entire city was involved. We appreciate
the dedication of all of the organizers throughout the city of Pittsburgh.” Other BW4PC networkers
who marched were Charlene Ligon, Omaha, Nebraska; Mallissa Simpson, Chicago, Illinois; Faye
Morrison, Ayer, Massachusetts; and Lynne Thompson, Esq., Los Angeles, Calif.

BW4PC Networkers from Baltimore at National Women’s March in Washington, D.C.
(Left photo, Left to Right) BW4PC Group Photo of Baltimore Marchers in DC Networkers Danyell
Winkey-Smith, Bernadette Tolson and Sharon McCollough

1220 L. Street, NW, #100-181, Washington, DC 20005; Fax 202-403-3743;
Black Women for Positive change
Preserving and Strengthening the Middle/Working Class “Changing the Culture of Violence in America”

Pittsburgh Neighborhood Academy Contestants Win Prizes in “On 2nd Thought” Youth Violence Prevention Essay Contest

May 21, 2015

Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC), a national, volunteer civic organization recently
sponsored the first-ever “On 2nd Thought” Essay Contest at the Neighborhood Academy, in Pittsburgh,
PA. High school juniors and seniors wrote original essays to compete for prizes based on “On 2nd
Thought,” a youth violence prevention film produced by BW4PC.

On Wednesday, May 20, 2015, cash prizes and certificates were presented to students, at the
Neighborhood Academy, by Diane Powell, Essay Contest Chair and Latara Jones, Essay Contest
Coordinator. Winners of the Essay Contest are: First Place: Cydney J.C. Francis–$150 cash prize;
Second Place: Brittany Williams–$100 cash prize; and Third Place: Derrick Clark–$ 50.00. “Over
the past 2 years, we have shown the ‘On 2nd Thought’ film to hundreds of youth in Pittsburgh, to
encourage discussion about violence prevention. We’re glad students at the Neighborhood Academy
competed in the Essay Competition and shared their thoughts about the film’s message. We appreciate
the support of the Academy and their teacher, Jennifer Kane,” said Diane Powell, Outreach Co-Chair,
BW4PC East Coast Region.

In a joint statement BW4PC National Co-Chairs Dr. Stephanie Myers and Virginia Delegate Daun S.
Hester said, “We believe it is important to help young people understand they should think twice
and have “2nd Thoughts” before engaging in violence. BW4PC is producing socially responsible media
tools for schools, civic organizations and local governments to help youth learn how to weigh
options before engaging in violence and ruining their lives, and the lives of others.”

“On 2nd Thought” and other Social Media tools are available for purchase  at: For interviews with Essay
Contest student winners contact Diane Powell, BW4PC Co-Chair of Outreach East Coast, or call 202-327-4301. Photos attached.

Black Women for Positive Change
Preserving and Strengthening the Middle/Working Class “Changing the Culture of Violence in America”
1220 L. Street, NW, #100‐181, Washington, DC 20005; Fax 202‐403‐3743;

Black Women for Positive Change Calls on America to Promote Non- Violence during ‘National Week of Non-Violence’, August 16-23, 2014

Jun 29, 2014

Washington, DC – Using a playground in the District of Columbia as a backdrop on Monday, June 16,
2014, Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC) and Members of the BW4PC Summit Council on
Non-Violence issued a call for citizens to support a National Week of Non- Violence, August 16-23,
2014. BW4PC, a national virtual network with members in 20 States stated, “Playgrounds must be safe
places where our girls and boys can play without fear of violence or assault. We are calling for a
National Week of Non-Violence so local communities to teach youth and violence-prone adults skills
in conflict resolution, anger management, and awareness of non-violence techniques.” Proclamations
in support of the National Week of Non- Violence have been issued by Governor Bill Haslam, State of
Tennessee and Mayor William D. Euille, of Alexandria, Virginia. (see attached)

Dr. Stephanie Myers, National Co-Chair, BW4PC called for citizens to take responsibility for
‘Changing the Culture of Violence in America.’ “We can’t expect government to do everything for
us…citizens must step up to educate their children, grandchildren and neighbors about how to deal
with conflicts and confrontations without resorting to violence.” BW4PC Chaplain Rev. Dr. Barbara
Reynolds, Press Conference Moderator, referred to a recent incident where a six (6) old girl was
shot while playing on a nearby playground. Members of the BW4PC Summit Council on Non-Violence who
participated in the press conference were National Summit Council Members Mayor William D. Euille
of Alexandria, VA, who presented his Proclamation; BW4PC Charter Member Rabbi Batya Steinlauf,
Director of Social Justice and Interfaith Initiatives, Jewish Community and Relations Council; Imam
Talib Shareef, Head of the Nation’s Mosque, Washington, DC; Marcus Hughes, Youth Council of the
NAACP; and Leutrell Osbourne, Esq. and Lenney Lowe, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Washington, D.C.
Three uniformed officers of the Metropolitan Police Department stood with BW4PC to support the
Non-Violence initiative along with Charter Members Bernadette Tolson, Chair, BW4PC Development
Committee; Rev. Emily Ward, and BW4PC Treasurer Sondra Henderson.

In a joint statement BW4PC National Co-Chairs Virginia Delegate Daun S. Hester and Dr. Stephanie
Myers stated, “In light of the terrible tragedies of violence occurring in U.S. cities, we urge
citizens to assume leadership to change the culture of violence in America. The shootings in
Portland, Oregon; Santa Barbara; Sandy Hook; Columbine; Chicago; and here in Washington, DC
reflect a negative part of the American culture that must be stopped. While we understand violence
in the military is a necessary part of national security, we believe the current display of violent
behavior has gone to extreme excess. We, as Americans must find ways to promote optimism and
opportunity and to transform violence to non-violence in music, art, film, TV, video games,
inter-personal interactions and other social norms so children, youth, adults and elders
can live peaceful, safe, productive lives without fear of violence.”

Black Women for Positive Change
“Changing the Culture of Violence in America”
P.O. Box 78211, Washington, DC 20013; Fax 202-403-3743;

Dr. Barbara Reynolds, noted journalist and BW4PC Chaplain said, “We must ensure that our children
are safe on playgrounds, can attend school, church and recreation centers without fear of
being shot or attacked with other forms of violence. We are calling on faith leaders, concerned
citizens, elected officials and organizations to stop being passive and get involved and organize
non-violence events during the Week of Non-Violence.” Events can be listed on a Master Calendar at:

On August 23, 2014, BW4PC will host a National Summit on Non-Violence in Washington,
D.C. featuring conflict resolution and non-violence workshops at Metropolitan AME Church, 1518 M
Street, N.W., Washington, D.C., 9 am – 5 pm/EST. To pre-register citizens can sign up at For information go to the website or contact BW4PC via Email
at: Registration for Summit is free but, donations are requested.
BW4PC representatives are available for Talk Shows and interviews.

Black Women for Positive Change
“Changing the Culture of Violence in America”
P.O. Box 78211, Washington, DC 20013; Fax 202-403-3743;
For Immediate Release Contact: Bernadette Tolson,

BW4PC Activities
2015 WEEK OF NON-VIOLENCE FLYER – District of Columbia
2015 WEEK OF NON-VIOLENCE FLYER – Youth Speak and We Listen – Pittsburgh

Elected Officials Endorse National Week of Non-Violence

Jun 29, 2014

Governor Martin O’Malley, State of Maryland; Governor Bill Haslam, State of Tennessee; and Mayor William Euille, Alexandria, Virginia, are leading elected officials in America, who support the National Week of Non-Violence, August 16-23, 2014, sponsored by Black Women for Positive Change, a national, civic network. In an official state proclamation Governor Bill Haslam stated, “On behalf of the people of Tennessee, By virtue of the authority vested in me, I hereby confer upon Black Women for Positive Change A Day of Recognition Honoring August 16-23, as a National Week of Non-Violence,” signed Bill Haslam, Governor. (Proclamations attached)

An excerpt from the State of Maryland proclamation signed by Governor Martin O’Malley and Lt. Governor Anthony Brown states, “Whereas, America’s problems with violence within our society have escalated during the last decade, affecting families in every walk of life….and…Whereas, all Americans are encouraged to organize community-based events that teach non-violence, conflict resolution, parenting and promote the viewing of the youth violence prevention film produced by BW4PC called “On 2nd Thought” available on the web at; Now, therefore, I Martin O’Malley, Governor of the State of Maryland, do hereby proclaim August 16-23, 2014 as National Week of Non-Violence in Maryland”
Mayor William Euille, City of Alexandria, Virginia, issued a Proclamation stating, “….high school, college students, community-based organizations and faith institutions in Alexandria, Virginia have been challenged to plan a day or event that demonstrates what a day without violence would be like in their communities.” Mayor Euille joined BW4PC at a June 16, 2014 press conference at a playground in Washington, D.C. to highlight the importance of safety for children.

In a joint statement, BW4PC National Co-Chairs Virginia Delegate Daun S. Hester and Dr. Stephanie E. Myers said, “We appreciate the support of Governor O’Malley, Governor Haslam and Mayor Euille for the ‘National Week of Non-Violence,’ August 16-23, 2014, and invite all elected officials to recognize the importance of teaching non-violence, anger management and conflict resolution, in their jurisdictions. We hope elected officials will join with their constituents to ‘Change the Culture of Violence in America.’ We invite concerned citizens to attend a Summit on Non-Violence in the District of Columbia, on Saturday, August 23, 2014, 9 am – 5 pm, during the National Week of Non-Violence. This Summit will discuss strategies to change the way youth and violence prone adults think about committing violent acts.”

BW4PC invites interested individuals to register for the August 23rd Summit on Non-Violence in DC at no cost, at Citizens outside of DC, are asked to host non-violence or conflict resolution events in their own cities and share event details on the National Week of Non-Violence Calendar at For more information contact Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Charter Member and Chaplain, BW4PC, at 301-899-1341.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Dr. Barbara Reynolds, Press Contact
Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC)
Tel. 301-899-1341; <>

Black Women for Positive Change endorses Darrel Thompson for City Council, Ward 6, District of Columbia

Feb 18, 2014

Black Women for Positive Change, a civic network, announces their endorsement of Darrel Thompson
for Ward 6 seat, City Council, District of Columbia. In a joint statement National Co-Chairs Dr
Stephanie E. Myers, resident of Ward 6 and Daun S. Hester, stated, “Darrel Thompson is a home-grown
Washingtonian, partially raised in Baltimore. Having grown up in the inner city he understands the
challenges and obstacles facing today’s youth. We are impressed with his breadth of education as a
graduate of from Morgan State University and his Masters Degree from Harvard University. We
believe Darrel’s experience as a staff member with U.S. Senator Harry Reid will give him a unique
ability to bring federal resources and national connections to Ward 6, in the District of Columbia.
We are counting on him to focus on jobs and job training for the unemployed, economic development
and opportunities for small businesses.

Karen Carrington, Charter Member of Black Women for Positive Change and resident of Ward 6 stated,
“I am a homeowner residing on the Southwest Waterfront of Ward 6, and I am glad our organization is
endorsing Darrell Thompson for the DC City Council, Ward 6. I am confident that he possesses the
leadership and political savvy needed to propel Ward 6 to become economically viable through
education, training, and job creation. I like his plans to bolster small business and economic
development and to retain affordable housing by managing the impact of re-gentrification. Darrell
has empathy for people and sees the needs that are so prevalent in our community.“

Black Women for Positive Change is a civic network dedicated to preserving and expanding the
American Middle/Working Class and “Changing the Culture of Violence in America.”
P.O. Box 78211, Washington, DC 20013; Fax 202-403-3743;
Black Women for Positive Change
“Changing the Culture of Violence in America”
For Immediate Release
Contact S. Myers 202-347-5566


Jan 1, 2014

Black Women for Positive Change (BW4PC), a national civic network, declares it is time to Change
the Culture of Violence in America. The historic legacy of violence in America has created a
national obsession with violence that impacts adults and youth. Gun violence, physical violence and
abuse must stop because it is destroying the very fabric of the nation. Therefore, BW4PC calls on
national, state and local leaders to create programs and partnerships to educate the nation about
non-violent principles and methods that can promote non-violence in families, schools, faith-based
institutions, the workplace and neighborhoods.

This manifesto recognizes violence is necessary for national security and law enforcement. However,
it is the belief of BW4PC that America should incorporate non- violence principles in daily life in
order to create safe environments of peace and opportunity for children, youth, adults and elders.
Therefore, BW4PC calls on parents, grandparents, youth, mentors, politicians, hip hoppers,
faith-leaders, business leaders, unions, athletes, gangs, professionals, educators, entertainers,
etc. to STOP THE SILENCE ABOUT VIOLENCE and work to create a cultural change in America that
achieves the following goals:

  • Immediate passage of gun control legislation and gun registration in every State.
  • Creation of new industries of socially responsible, non-violent entertainment products including
    films, television, video games, music, hip hop, rap, and other forms of recreation and
  • Creation of “Safe Spaces” in faith institutions, community centers, malls, parks, benches, homes,
    backyards, schools and other venues where individuals can retreat to calm down from confrontations,
    verbal abuse and anger, and to have the opportunity for “2nd Thoughts” before engaging in violence.
  • Creation of extensive state and local training opportunities in conflict resolution, mediation,
    parenting and reconciliation skills for children, youth and adults so, they can learn how to
    resolve confrontations using non-violence methods.

Respectfully submitted to the American People.
Dr. Stephanie E. Myers and Virginia Delegate Daun S. Hester, National Co-Chairs
January 2014

Black Women for Positive Change
“Changing the Culture of Violence in America “
P.O. Box 78211, Washington DC 20013, Fax 202-403-3743,



PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you so much. Thank you. To Graça Machel and the Mandela family; to President Zuma and members of the government; to heads of states and government, past and present; distinguished guests — it is a singular honor to be with you today, to celebrate a life like no other. To the people of South Africa — (applause) — people of every race and walk of life — the world thanks you for sharing Nelson Mandela with us. His struggle was your struggle. His triumph was your triumph. Your dignity and your hope found expression in his life.And your freedom, your democracy is his cherished legacy.

It is hard to eulogize any man — to capture in words not just the facts and the dates that make a life, but the essential truth of a person — their private joys and sorrows; the quiet moments and unique qualities that illuminate someone’s soul. How much harder to do so for a giant of history, who moved a nation toward justice, and in the process moved billions around the world.

Born during World War I, far from the corridors of power, a boy raised herding cattle and tutored by the elders of his Thembu tribe, Madiba would emerge as the last great liberator of the 20th century. Like Gandhi, he would lead a resistance movement — a movement that at its start had little prospect for success. Like Dr. King, he would give potent voice to the claims of the oppressed and the moral necessity of racial justice. He would endure a brutal imprisonment that began in the time of Kennedy and Khrushchev, and reached the final days of the Cold War. Emerging from prison, without the force of arms, he would — like Abraham Lincoln — hold his country together when it threatened to break apart. And like America’s Founding Fathers, he would erect a constitutional
order to preserve freedom for future generations — a commitment to democracy and rule of law ratified not only by his election, but by his willingness to step down from power after only one term.

Given the sweep of his life, the scope of his accomplishments, the adoration that he so rightly earned, it’s tempting I think to remember Nelson Mandela as an icon, smiling and serene, detached from the tawdry affairs of lesser men. But Madiba himself strongly resisted such a lifeless portrait. (Applause.) Instead, Madiba insisted on sharing with us his doubts and his fears; his miscalculations along with his victories. “I am not a saint,” he said, “unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

It was precisely because he could admit to imperfection — because he could be so full of good humor, even mischief, despite the heavy burdens he carried — that we loved him so. He was not a bust made of marble; he was a man of flesh and blood — a son and a husband, a father and a friend. And that’s why we learned so much from him, and that’s why we can learn from him still. For nothing he achieved was inevitable. In the arc of his life, we see a man who earned his place in history through struggle and shrewdness, and persistence and faith. He tells us what is possible not just in the pages of history books, but in our own lives as well.

Mandela showed us the power of action; of taking risks on behalf of our ideals. Perhaps Madiba was right that he inherited, “a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness” from his father. And we know he shared with millions of black and colored South Africans the anger born of, “a thousand slights, a thousand indignities, a thousand unremembered moments…a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people,” he said.

But like other early giants of the ANC — the Sisulus and Tambos — Madiba disciplined his anger and channeled his desire to fight into organization, and platforms, and strategies for action, so men and women could stand up for their God-given dignity. Moreover, he accepted the consequences of his actions, knowing that standing up to powerful interests and injustice carries a price. “I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I’ve cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and [with] equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.” (Applause.)

Mandela taught us the power of action, but he also taught us the power of ideas; the importance of reason and arguments; the need to study not only those who you agree with, but also those who you don’t agree with. He understood that ideas cannot be contained by prison walls, or extinguished by a sniper’s bullet. He turned his trial into an indictment of apartheid because of his eloquence and his passion, but also because of his training as an advocate. He used decades in prison to sharpen his arguments, but also to spread his thirst for knowledge to others in the movement. And he learned the language and the customs of his oppressor so that one day he might better convey to them how their own freedom depend upon his. (Applause.)

Mandela demonstrated that action and ideas are not enough. No matter how right, they must be chiseled into law and institutions. He was practical, testing his beliefs against the hard surface of circumstance and history. On core principles he was unyielding, which is why he could rebuff offers of unconditional release, reminding the Apartheid regime that “prisoners cannot enter into contracts.”

But as he showed in painstaking negotiations to transfer power and draft new laws, he was not afraid to compromise for the sake of a larger goal. And because he was not only a leader of a movement but a skillful politician, the Constitution that emerged was worthy of this multiracial democracy, true to his vision of laws that protect minority as well as majority rights, and the precious freedoms of every South African. And finally, Mandela understood the ties that bind the human spirit. There is a word in South Africa — Ubuntu — (applause) — a word that captures Mandela’s greatest gift: his recognition that we are all bound together in ways that are invisible to the eye; that there is a oneness to humanity; that we achieve ourselves by sharing ourselves with others, and caring for those around us.

We can never know how much of this sense was innate in him, or how much was shaped in a dark and solitary cell. But we remember the gestures, large and small — introducing his jailers as honored guests at his inauguration; taking a pitch in a Springbok uniform; turning his family’s heartbreak into a call to confront HIV/AIDS — that revealed the depth of his empathy and his understanding. He not only embodied Ubuntu, he taught millions to find that truth within themselves.

It took a man like Madiba to free not just the prisoner, but the jailer as well — (applause) — to show that you must trust others so that they may trust you; to teach that reconciliation is not a matter of ignoring a cruel past, but a means of confronting it with inclusion and generosity and truth. He changed laws, but he also changed hearts.

For the people of South Africa, for those he inspired around the globe, Madiba’s passing is rightly a time of mourning, and a time to celebrate a heroic life. But I believe it should also prompt in each of us a time for selfreflection. With honesty, regardless of our station or our circumstance, we must ask: How well have I applied his lessons in my own life? It’s a question I ask myself, as a man and as a President.

We know that, like South Africa, the United States had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation. As was true here, it took sacrifice — the sacrifice of countless people, known and unknown, to see the dawn of a new day. Michelle and I are beneficiaries of that struggle. (Applause.) But in America, and in South Africa, and in countries all around the globe, we cannot allow our progress to cloud the fact that our work is not yet done.

The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools. We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love. That is happening today. (Applause.)

And so we, too, must act on behalf of justice. We, too, must act on behalf of peace. There are too many people who happily embrace Madiba’s legacy of racial reconciliation, but passionately resist even modest reforms that would challenge chronic poverty and growing inequality. There are too many leaders who claim solidarity with Madiba’s struggle for freedom, but do not tolerate dissent from their own people. (Applause.) And there are too many of us on the sidelines, comfortable in complacency or cynicism when our voices must be heard.

The questions we face today — how to promote equality and justice; how to uphold freedom and human rights; how to end conflict and sectarian war — these things do not have easy answers. But there were no easy answers in front of that child born in World War I. Nelson Mandela reminds us that it always seems impossible until it is done. South Africa shows that is true. South Africa shows we can change, that we can choose a world defined not by our differences, but by our common hopes. We can choose a world defined not by conflict, but by peace and justice and opportunity.

We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the world — you, too, can make his life’s work your own. Over 30 years ago, while still a student, I learned of Nelson Mandela and the struggles taking place in this beautiful land, and it stirred something in me. It woke me up to my responsibilities to others and to myself, and it set me on an improbable journey that finds me here today. And while I will always fall short of Madiba’s example, he makes me want to be a better man. (Applause.) He speaks to what’s best inside us.

After this great liberator is laid to rest, and when we have returned to our cities and villages and rejoined our daily routines, let us search for his strength. Let us search for his largeness of spirit somewhere inside of ourselves. And when the night grows dark, when injustice weighs heavy on our hearts, when our best-laid plans seem beyond our reach, let us think of Madiba and the words that brought him comfort within the four walls of his cell: “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

What a magnificent soul it was. We will miss him deeply. May God bless the memory of Nelson Mandela. May God bless the people of South Africa. (Applause.)

Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release December 10, 2013


First National Bank Stadium
Johannesburg, South Africa

1:31 P.M. SAST
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