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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

2011 Tambo Lecture: Introduction of Minister Trevor Manuel

Riggs Library
Georgetown University
April 11, 2011 

Thank you very much Carol…and thank you to all of our guests for joining us today in Riggs Library. I would especially like to thank Johnny Moloto, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the South African Embassy for joining us this evening, and I also want to thank Dr. Renosi the Executive Director of the World Bank and his colleagues at the World Bank: Mr. Leonard and Ms. Vuyelwa.

I, too, would like to recognize Scott Taylor the director of our African studies program in the School of Foreign Service for his efforts to support this lecture series.

I also want to thank everyone here who is a member of our GAIN initiative – the Georgetown Africa Interest Network. It’s a network of 400 faculty and staff from 75 departments with personal and scholarly interest in Africa. It’s a pleasure to have you all here today.

Tonight—I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about two extraordinary leaders tonight: The first, Oliver Tambo, for whom this lecture series is named; the second, Minister Trevor Manuel, our honored guest and lecturer this evening.

This lecture series is named for Oliver Tambo, the central figure in the anti-apartheid movement, a cofounder with Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu of the ANC Youth League in 1943, former president of the African National Congress, and the individual responsible for gathering international support for the anti-apartheid movement. 

Our first Oliver Tambo lecturer in this series was President Thabo Mbeki, a close friend of Mr. Tambo from his earliest days in politics. I’d like to tell you just a little bit of a story about the connection and how this lecture series came about. In 1987, I was engaged on behalf of Georgetown in southern Africa, and I was meeting in Botswana with Thabo Mbeki at the time he was in exile and the African National Congress was planning a visit of Mr. Tambo to the United States and requested whether we might be able to host Mr. Tambo here in Gaston Hall for a major lecture in Washington, D.C. And this was early January 1987, and we said yes, and about three weeks later, we were very honored to host here at Georgetown a rather significant event: the visit of Oliver Tambo.

There were at least three either recent or future US ambassadors to the United Nations present in the Hall that day, including Ambassador Don McHenry, January 1987…the others included Jeane Kirkpatrick and Madeline Albright…quite a star-studded audience that day. It was a major opportunity for the African National Congress to present its leader here in the United States. What was very significant about it, through Don’s intercessions, and also through the work of our President Father Timothy Healy—who was serving on a Special Task Force of then Secretary of State George Shultz, they were able to arrange a meeting for Mr. Tambo with Secretary of State Shultz, and that began a series of conversations that in its own way had a contribution to addressing the challenges that were facing the country of South Africa at that time. President Mbeki was responsible for pulling together that lecture here in January 1987, and when he was elected president he called and he said, “You know we look back on some of the events that led to where we are today and that event was one that we would like to honor and like to acknowledge. Would you be willing to develop a series at Georgetown that would honor Oliver Tambo and I’ll come and deliver the first lecture?”

And so in May of 2000, Thabo Mbeki came to Georgetown as the new president of South Africa and delivered the first Oliver Tambo lecture. About a year and a half later Archbishop Desmond Tutu delivered the second and through Don’s help, President Obasanjo of Nigeria delivered the third, and just a couple years back Kofi Annan delivered another in the series of Oliver Tambo lectures.

During his address on the Hilltop, President Mbeki provided a memorable account of Oliver Tambo, capturing the most important aspects of his character and leadership. He remarked, “Oliver Tambo was a wonderful human being… He brought to the struggle…a passionate opposition to racism, sexism, and all forms of discrimination; honesty, a fearless devotion to principle, [and] respect for all human beings regardless of their station in life.”

So, it’s in this spirit that we aspire to capture and celebrate the life of this great leader and the traits that he represented, traits that resonate deeply with the values of this institution.

There are few leaders today who embody these values more than our lecturer this evening, Minister Trevor Manuel. 

Mr. Manuel currently serves as the Minister of National Planning in the African National Congress, where he oversees the implementation of strategic plans for South Africa’s long-term development. 

His prior work as the leader of two other government ministries – first, as the Minister of Trade and Industry from 1994 to 1996; next, as one of the longest serving Ministers of Finance in the world, from 1996 to 2009 – has laid the strongest possible foundation for his most recent leadership role, to which he was appointed by President Jacob Zuma in May 2009.

What has stood out throughout his career is his steadfast commitment to placing values at the center of his model of leadership, integrating principles such as moral integrity, honesty, accountability, transparency, and an ethic of inclusivity into every aspect of his work. These were ideas forged during the struggles in his early life against racism and poverty and continue to define the ethic of leadership that he shares today in his work for greater equality, positive social change, and democratic freedoms.

His determination to privilege these values has allowed him to bring an alternate perspective to challenges more often associated with balance sheets and bottom lines. As Time Magazine noted while describing Mr. Manuel as one of the hundred “Most Influential” people in the world, Mr. Manuel “helped transform how the rich world views the poor one” by championing the view that developing nations also deserve a leadership voice within the institutions that manage the global economy.1  He has shared this leadership with the international community in many ways, including as Chairman of the IMF’s Board of Governors.

A similar sense of conviction helped Mr. Manuel to expertly navigate the global financial crisis, creating a 2009 budget that economists called “practical and efficient” due to its aggressive push to stimulate the economy, increase tax cuts and escalate spending on infrastructure.   For this work he was awarded, he has received numerous honorary doctorates, and has been elected by the World Economic Forum as a “Global Leader for Tomorrow.”  

This practical approach reflects a perspective that he also has defined his more recent work in developing a long-term strategic vision for South Africa. His view, as he has summarized, understands that “economic development is about patience and obstinacy… determination and hope, [yet] of choice, not fate.”2  Mr. Manuel’s own choice to fight for the future of his nation from the time of his youth has been fortunate for all of us, as we have gained a model of leadership full of courage, integrity, creativity and hard work that many will seek to replicate far into the future.

It is now my pleasure to welcome Mr. Manuel to the podium to deliver his address on “Society, Markets and Justice.”

1.  Perry, Alex. "Trevor Manuel: The Veteran."  Time Magazine: 25 March 2009.  Accessed online:,9171,1887592,00.html.

2.  Private interview with Professor Charles Villa-Vincencio.



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