Significant Speeches

Remarks of the Honorable David J. Hickton
United States Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania
for Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

Mt. Ararat Baptist Church
Pittsburgh, PA
December 13, 2013

Thank you Reverend Curtis to you and your Congregation for welcoming me back again to this beautiful house of worship.

Thanks to those who organized today’s event and invited me to participate especially Leo Gerard and Sala Udin; I wanted to join you today as Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes.

I have been inspired by the words and deeds of Nelson Mandela.

My favorites are these:

Courage is not the absence of fear but the triumph over it;

No one is born to hate; they learn it and if they can learn to hate, they can learn to love and that is our mission as love comes more naturally to the human heart; and

We are not here to play small ball or settling for a less capable life--each of us has an obligation to ourselves, our community and to our Maker to make the best use of the talents and gifts we have been endowed with and to be the best person we can be.

It is Mandela’s life example in pursuit of freedom and justice which guides our work here—so many miles away—the central transcendent force of his example are his deeds:

  • The pursuit of freedom, justice and peace;
  • The respect for the rule of law; and
  • The dignity and respect he offered his oppressors—for we are no better than them if we drink the venomous potion of resentment.

Through the courageous example of his life, Nelson Mandela showed us that love conquers hate and righteousness defeats injustice.

Nelson Mandela was an advocate for the rule of law. He recognized that freedom and justice are indispensable and interrelated and neither can exist without adherence to the rule of law.

I will miss many things about Nelson Mandela but I will especially miss the way he could dismiss a ridiculous idea with grace and without rancor or anger. I remember a television interview he gave between his release from prison and his ascension to the Presidency of South Africa wherein he was asked “How will you deal with having power for the first time?” He smiled, tilted his head, sighed and softly replied; “What do you mean? I had more power as a prisoner than I will have as President.”

You see Nelson Mandela did not need to become President to be the leader of his country any more than George Washington did to be the Father of the United States. Their power came not from their position, but from their moral authority acquired by their courage and righteousness.

The lesson for me and for other public servants is that our power comes from you-the people; and our effectiveness comes from the righteousness of our work.

President Obama has honored me with the professional privilege of a lifetime with my appointment to this great office, and I hope to be here a long time. But I want you to know that the civil rights struggle is the great struggle of humankind; and the work which I do every day in this effort stirs and inspires me. I believe a civil rights injustice to one is an insult to all. I am committed to equal justice for all, and each day the words and example of Nelson Mandela are on my mind and in my heart.

Thank you.

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