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UWC Students Attend Clinton’s SA Address

On Tuesday, August 8th a group of Interstudy students and staff had the opportunity to attend a session with US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.  Here’s an excellent recap of the event from Katherine, an Interstudy student studying at the University of Cape Town

The event began late, but no one seemed to mind waiting. I found myself sitting at the front of a large room that looked like a hybrid of ballroom and lecture theatre, complete with a large organ on one wall. By chance, I was seated between two fascinating individuals and excellent conversationalists: the driver to the vice-chancellor of the University of the Western Cape, and a distinguished woman who spent her career working in the non-profit sector across Southern Africa. We chatted about U.S. politics, the relationship between the U.S. and South Africa, and – of course – what to see, do, and eat in Cape Town. We had just broached the topic of different systems of higher education when the crowd was asked to stand for two national anthems. First, the Star-Spangled Banner. Timid and outnumbered Americans could be heard humming or muttering the lyrics, but the room exploded with sound when the South African national anthem followed. We remained standing until U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stepped up to the podium.

Secretary Clinton visited Cape Town as part of her nine-nation African tour, taking her from Kenya to Benin to Sudan. She addressed a group of South African students and professors, as well as some lucky Americans like me, at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) during her short but productive visit to South Africa. At UWC, she spoke about the continued challenges faced by both South Africa and US, but also the recent successes and incredible potential she had seen across Southern Africa during her trip. The audience was most taken by the last third of her speech, when she seemed to abandon the script in front of her to tell the story of her 1994 visit to South Africa for Nelson Mandela’s inauguration. She spoke with eloquence and clarity as she recalled a stunning moment. At a luncheon of very, very important people to celebrate his inauguration, Nelson Mandela informed the heads of state from around the world that the most important people in the room to him were three middle-aged white men: his jailers at Robben Island, who had treated him with dignity and respect in a time of discrimination and injustice. Secretary Clinton credited President Mandela with teaching her the fundamental importance of these qualities, even in the face of the most severe challenges and obstacles – a lesson she has drawn upon countless times in her public life.

When she finished speaking, the crowd stood to applaud the Secretary, and she paused to shake the hands of many enthusiastic spectators. She took pictures with beaming students, and listened to older members of the audience recall her husband’s visit to South Africa or ask about her recent meeting with President Mandela. I think I speak for most of the audience when I say that as she finally left the room, I felt assured that she was more than capable of tackling the difficult, global mission that she faces. I left excited to see where she will go and what she will do next, but more importantly, I came away inspired to make the most of my own short time here in Cape Town: to see, do, learn, share, and reflect as much as I can throughout this incredible opportunity.

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