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Nelson Mandela's Message

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At an official renaming ceremony on Saturday, November 17, 2001, the Toronto District School Board officially changed the name of Park Public School to Nelson Mandela Park Public School. The name change honours President Mandela's legacy and his fight to help those who are less fortunate. It also recognizes the rich heritage of the school and its community. Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graça Machel, attended the ceremony, which featured a children's choir, keynote addresses and the unveiling of the school's new name.

Park Public School was selected by the Canadian Friends of Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, and this choice was unanimously supported by the TDSB. The name-change process involved public consultations with students, parents, staff and local agencies and politicians. The renaming sends a powerful message to everyone in the city. Students of this school, and indeed students in all of our schools, will continue to be inspired by Mandela's vision, his commitment to justice and his abiding faith in the goodness of the human spirit.

After the renaming ceremony, Mandela and Machel addressed an audience at Ryerson Polytechnic University, speaking about their continuing work on behalf of children in South Africa. Under the auspices of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, which Mandela set up in 1994, projects are currently under way to provide essential medical help to the many communities and children devastated by the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Teams also provide assistance with early childhood development programs.

Graça Machel is a noted advocate for education and the rights of children in her own right. She became a leader in the movement to raise the level of education in her native Mozambique during that country's struggle for independence in the 1970s. As a result of these efforts, school enrolments rose exponentially until the mid-1980s, when war again destroyed the country and its schools. Her work has continued over the decades, and she has held posts with UNESCO and at the United Nations. Her 1995 report to the UN, A Study on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Children, commissioned by Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1993, is a call to all nations to adopt guidelines for the protection of all children from the ravages of violence, poverty, poor education and disease.

In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela wrote, " I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter. I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance but I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended." Nelson Mandela's latest visit to Toronto is one more step in the extraordinary journey of his life.

For more information on the Canadian Friends of Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, visit www.mandela-children.ca.

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