This we understand fully, that it is given to very few, who come from outside the shores of this country, to stand in this lofty Chamber to address you, the law-makers of the United States of America.
And so we speak today feeling the great weight of an extraordinary and elevating circumstance that you have extended this rare honour to us twice in our lifetime in a period of less than half-a-decade.
We extend our humble thanks to you all and to the millions of people you represent. We express our gratitude that you have thus, as an Irish patriot once said, given to a subaltern all the tribute that is due to a superior.
When last we were here, we came to thank you for the things you had done which had flung open the prison gates of our troubled land and enabled the leaders of our enslaved people to tread the soil of our country unhindered.
We came to salute you for the place you had taken in the universal assault on apartheid, which had made it possible that once more the authentic organisations of our people should speak for the people freely and without seeking the permission of those who sought to ensure that the people had no voice except the voice of subservience.
We came also to share with you our dreams of genuine independence, democracy and the emancipation of all our people; you whose forebears had, at earlier times, dreamt of independence, of democracy and of the emancipation of all the people of these United States.
The time that has passed since then has given it to us to come back to you to speak not of a dream deferred, of which your fellow-countryman Langston Hughes spoke.
The history that cannot be unmade has enabled us to repeat in this Chamber the poetry of the triumph of the oppressed.
For, as the representatives of centuries of white minority rule bowed to the democratic process, the people did, like your fellow-countryman, Martin Luther King, Jr., cry out: Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty we are free at last!
We were moved that even at that first moment of celebration, representatives of the American people were present among us to help us sing and louder sing of freedom, justice, and peace.
We were moved because you, like the great humanity to which we all belong, had committed your own human and material resources to ensure that for the first time in the entire history of our country, the people had the possibility to elect a government of their choice, without let or hindrance.
When the proclamation rang out that the elections had in the substance been free and fair, we knew that we could proudly return to these shores to say: Dear friends, brothers and sisters, your wishes and ours have been realised; democracy has won the day!
We were humbled and inspired that you honoured us again by sending a delegation of eminent Americans to join us at our inauguration.
As we began our new journey into a new future, we took the presence in our country, of so weighty a group of emissaries of what is good in the American consciousness, to be a declaration which none could either forget or ignore, that you stand by our young democracy and commit your prayers to its everlasting success.
Along the uneasy road to the victory of the cause of democracy and fundamental human rights, we, like the great revolutionaries who were the founders of this Republic, have had to test the capacity of our people to break new ground in the history of human evolution.
Principal among these was, on the one hand, the willingness of the erstwhile minority rulers to concede political power without first resorting to such resistance as would reduce our country to a wasteland.
On the other, was the inability of the oppressed majority to forgive and accept a shared destiny with those who had enslaved them.
That both black and white in our country can today say we are to one another brother and sister, a united rainbow nation that derives its strength from the bonding of its many races and colours, constitutes a celebration of the oneness of the human race.
It represents the triumph of that intangible nobility of spirit which, in a divided and unequal world, makes for peace and friendship among the peoples.
At the end, the bloodletting stopped. At the end, goodwill prevailed. At the end, the overwhelming majority, both black and white, decided to invest in peace.
In the end, it is all that the ceremonial drums sought to salute as they throbbed to a rhythm both African and universal.
But in the fullness of time, they too ceased to beat. Their powerful rhythms have been replaced by the great pulsations which represent and reflect a new society in formation. New challenges stand ahead of us.
The flame of freedom, under whose light we danced in joyful abandon, has thrown an unrelenting glare on the great human tragedy on which was built the tarnished, tinsel glitter of an unjust society.
As we look and look again at the reality that freedom brings, we see together with T.S. Eliot that we are, still:
The dead leaves that still rattle on over the asphalt, and "the awareness of things done and done to other's harm" which Eliot decried, speak to the pervasive poverty that afflicts our society; the despair millions who are without jobs and without hope; the unborn whom we know will be born disabled and die before their maturity, because of poverty; the darkness that engulfs millions because they are both illiterate and innumerate; the many who will be victims of rape, robbery, and other violent crimes because hunger, want, and brutalization have warped and condemned many a human soul.
What we speak of is not anything unknown to this and other societies across the globe. And yet it is a reality which assumes its own special place because it superimposes itself on new and as yet fragile democratic institutions, democratic institutions that have sprouted out of the turbulent African soil.
This situation carries the features of a foundation that is, naturally, still in the process of setting. It represents the recurrent end of the unending process of the betterment of the human condition. It is to that unending process that we must turn our attention.
The question that arises is whether we shall embark on that road walking alone or whether you will be with us, having decided thus, in the process of the exercise of your own sovereign will.
It is perhaps right that we sit together again to evaluate this circumstance, to measure whether there is in it anything which demands of our people and yours that we enter into a compact founded on the imperatives of mutual gain.
The new South Africa has been born out of, and into a new age of great change. Because, perforce, we describe our country's transformation in words that have a familiar meaning, because they originate in the mists of time - democracy, justice, and peace - we too may not yet see that this is a transformation born out of and into a new age of great change.
The new age will surely demand that democracy must also mean a life of plenty. As the images of life lived anywhere on our globe become available to all, so will the contrast between rich and the poor within and across frontiers and within and across the continents, become a motive force impelling the deprived to demand a better life from the powers that be, whatever their location.
As the possibility of nations to become islands, sufficient unto themselves, diminishes and vanishes forever, so will it be that the suffering of the one shall, at the same time, inflict pain upon the other.
In an age such as this, when the fissures of the great oceans shall, in the face of human genius, be reduced to the narrowness of a forest path, much revision will have to be done of ideas that have seemed as stable as the rocks, including such concepts as sovereignty and the national interest.
What we speak of is the evolution of the objective would which inexorably says to all of us that we are human together or nothing at all.
The phrase you use, the concept of your being which is fundamental to the understanding of your society, the notion of a "melting pot," has, in time, begun to address a reality that encompasses the globe.
In the world of mundane things, as opposed to the celestial and the imaginary, a buyer is a buyer. The profits that your great corporations make, derive from whoever has the capacity to purchase their products and services, regardless of whether the customers are Chinese or African, Indian or American, European or Arab or Polynesian, male or female, young or old, Christian, Jew, Hindu, Moslem or Animist.
The success of your entrepreneurs, and with it the capacity of your society to give work to your citizens, rests on the fact of the elevation of every person, anywhere in the world, to the position of a free actor in the market place.
It will perhaps come to pass that the imperatives of this commercial market place will produce that magical elixir which the great thinker of all time have searched for, which sought to convince all societies that the assertion was true and self-evident that whatever our different complexions, whatever our different racial characteristics, whatever our different gender features, we are nonetheless all of us part of one, indivisible and common humanity.
It will perhaps come to be that this interconnectedness will produce among you, the distinguished members of these Houses of Congress, as among other actors on the world stage, policies which will spring from a common recognition of the fact that success or failure in the conduct of human affairs, can no longer be measured within the limited sphere defined by national boundaries that are the legacy of an ancient reality, away from which life itself has moved society a thousand leagues.
If what we say is true, that, manifestly, the world is one stage and the actions of all its inhabitants part of the same drama, does it not then follow that each one of us as nations, including yourselves, should begin to define the national interest to include the genuine happiness of others, however distant in time and space their domicile might be!
You, honourable members of the US Congress, are part of and represent the most powerful nation in our universe. I am, on the other hand, an African.
I come out of a continent with whose travails and suffering you are very familiar. You will therefore understand it easily why I stand up to say that for such a powerful country as yours, democracy, peace, and prosperity in Africa are as much in your national interest as ours.
Because I am an African, you will, I am certain, understand why I should stand here and say that it is our deeply held belief that the new world order that is in the making must focus on the creation of a world of democracy, peace, and prosperity for all humanity.
Is the time therefore not upon us when we should cease to treat tyranny, instability, and poverty anywhere on our globe as being peripheral to our interests and to our future!
Has not the end of the paralysis in world affairs, which resulted from the conflicts of the cold war and the threat of a nuclear holocaust, posed to us all the challenge to redefine the purposes of the world's system of international relations!
Can we not, then, move from the negative to the positive! The situation of conflict between two competing systems having been brought to an end, do we not now move away from the negative, of the global destruction of one system, to the positive, of the global creation of the conditions which will make it possible for all peoples to enjoy the right to full human dignity!
We are deeply moved by the commitment which the great people you represent, and which you yourselves and the President of the United States have made, that you will stay the course with us as we strengthen democracy in our country, ensure stability born of freedom and banish poverty and deprivation.
You have taken these positions not out of a sense of condescending pity for our people but because you have felt and recognised that our success advances the very principles on which this country is founded.
We too, as South Africans, must surely recognise this to be true, that the achievement of democracy, stability, and prosperity on our own continent advances the very principles on which our own country is founded.
Such recognition can never be an end in itself. It must surely be the beginning of a process of embarking on actions that reinforce the independent activities of the peoples to address these matters.
If all of this is true, then great countries, such as this one, and great institutions such as the United Nations, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the International Monetary Fund, and the European Union, must begin to put as a purpose central to their policies and actions, the creation of a world of democracy, peace, and prosperity.
For the very first time in the history of humanity, we have arrived at the point where it has become possible to pose this challenge. That possibility has arisen from the fact that, given the will, humanity does in fact have the means to begin the creation of the new world order whose central features we have sought to define.
One of your poets, Walt Whitman, has written of an age that must dawn, when every hour of the day will bring peace and happiness to all the people of these United States, and not the uncertainties of the uncertain hour before the morning, of which T.S. Eliot spoke.
Here is what he wrote:
Shall we not awaken to the challenge of our times and bend every effort to achieve so magnificent a result!
I do firmly believe that the people of this country, who have done so much to write the history of the world, have the vision, the wisdom, and the daring to strive so that what is good shines over the cities and the villages of that world, enveloping man and land.
Once you set out on this road, no one will need to be encouraged to follow.
Surely, the order of the day is forward march!