I am pleased to send warm greetings to all participants at this meaningful commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day. I welcome all the guests, especially the first two laureates of the Nelson Mandela Prize: Dr. Helena Ndume of Namibia and His Excellency Mr. Jorge Fernando Branco Sampaio of Portugal.
I am honoured by the presence of senior New York City officials who join us as we open this newly established UN Food Garden, as well as our friends from GreenThumb, a New York City Department of Parks and Recreation initiative that supports hundreds of community gardens across New York City.
I thank the United Nations staff volunteers who worked on this garden, joining people around the world who are devoting 67 minutes to community service in tribute to Nelson Mandela’s 67 years of public service. Other UN volunteers are tending local public parks and gardens.
Community gardens contribute to our campaign for better air quality, health and well-being across the world.
Nelson Mandela was not only a global champion of human rights – he was also an avid gardener who drew inspiration from this connection to the earth.
During his imprisonment, he argued for the right to cultivate a garden on Pollsmoor prison’s rooftop, and was finally permitted to plant vegetables. This modest victory meant a great deal to him. As he later wrote in his autobiography: “To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom.”
Today, we remember the courage of a man who suffered severe abuses that only strengthened his resolve to fight for the dignity of all people. We pledge to carry on Nelson Mandela’s legacy by tending our community gardens and taking care of our one and only planet.
Let us plant seeds of peace, human rights and sustainable development here and around the world.