May 12, 2005
Contact: Paul Statt
Director of Media Relations
NEW YORK—Before a standing-room-only crowd of students, faculty and friends of Amherst College in St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan, former South African president Nelson Mandela challenged the United States to "work toward correcting the inequities in the public schools. In South Africa, in America, in all the world—we must provide education, not as a privilege, but as a right; not for some, but for all." Amherst College awarded extraordinary doctoral degrees to Mandela and his wife Graça Machel, the former minister of education in Mozambique.
"We are all threatened by entrenched inequality and divisions," Mandela said in his address. "We all must prove ourselves equal to a better possibility. We are all South Africans now."
The crowd of almost 1,300 people included some 400 Amherst College students and 150 faculty and staff members, who made a 3-hour pre-dawn bus trip for this unusual event, the first time in memory that Amherst awarded a degree off-campus. Making a rare trip to the United States this week, Mandela and Machel also will visit former president Bill Clinton in Harlem, President George W. Bush, the Brookings Institution and the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington. Mandela is creating the Nelson Mandela Legacy Trust to support the work of Africa-based foundations. Machal will also address the Council on Foreign Relations.
Founded in 1821 for "the education of indigent young men of piety and talents," Amherst College is consistently ranked among the very best schools in the country in terms of accessibility. Among its peers Amherst has the greatest economic diversity. The college enrolls a diverse group of approximately 1,600 young men and women from every state and more than 40 countries.