Harry and Meghan are in New York City today as the former prince prepares to speak to the UN General Assembly in commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day. According to South Africa’s UN mission, Harry will focus his speech on “the memories and legacy of Mandela and what has been learned from his struggle and his life that can help us face the new challenges in the world today.” New York City’s mayor Eric Adams will also be on hand to participate in the event.
The UN General Assembly first declared July 18 as Nelson Mandela International Day in 2009 as a way to honor his “contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.” The country’s first Black president, Mandela was a courageous advocate for human rights. He played a key role in ending apartheid, the system of institutionalized racism that existed in South Africa between the late 1940s and mid 1990s. Mandela’s commitment to nonviolence led to him being honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He passed away in Johannesburg in 2013 at the age of 95.
The Duke of Sussex traveled to South Africa in 2019 with his wife, Meghan Markle and son Archie back in 2019. The trip came shortly before Harry and Meghan announced their official split from the royal family in 2021 after citing “unbearable intrusions and racist attitudes of the British media toward the duchess, who identifies as biracial. Although the couple left their titles behind for a “normal” life in California, they continue their commitment to philanthropy and public service through their Archewell nonprofit organization.
I’m sure Harry will be thinking of his mother, the late Princess Diana, as he gives his speech today. Diana met Nelson Mandela in 1997, just five months before her tragic death in a car crash in Paris.