Jehan Sadat

National Press Club Address

delivered 13 October 1982, Washington, D.C.


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you very much, Ms. Vahlberg.

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, members of the National Press Club, dear friends:

It is a great pleasure and indeed a great honor for me to be with you today.  When I received Mrs. Vahlberg's invitation to be your luncheon speaker, I asked her, what subject I was expected to speak about?  ďAny subject of your choice,Ē she said.  You can be sure I was grateful for that.

The President of my country, President Hosni Mubarak, addressed you from this very platform last February.  He elaborated eloquently on the -- on the policies of Egypt, both domestic and foreign.  Allow me therefore, to speak to you on a more personal note to dwell on a subject that is closest to my heart; Anwar Sadat and his legacy of peace.

Iíd like to apologize for not being able to join you earlier.  But for reasons Iím sure you will understand, I found it very difficult to return immediately to an active public life.  Iím grateful, however, for the gift of a busy personal life among family and friends.  The gift I treasured most, is that of being in close contact with young minds seeking knowledge and answers to the riddles of our times.

Iím slowly taking up the threads and continuing to live as my husband would have wanted me to, committed to his ideals of service and responsible citizenship.  Picking up the threads, I have become increasingly aware that the Egypt of today, under the leadership of President Mubarak, is involved in a continuing process of reconstruction and hard work, which have only become possible as a result of peace.

Having earned the respect of the world as a great leader in the battle for the liberation of a great nation, Anwar Sadat then set himself the difficult task of consolidating the idea of peace at a time of mutual suspicion and hatred.  Very soon after the victory of our sons in the battle of liberation, which redeemed the honor of Egypt and the Arab world, Sadat devoted himself to the formidable tasks of reconstruction.  He personally took an interest in every development project and blueprint for a brighter future.  Born in the Egyptian countryside, he was deeply conscious of the needs and aspirations of Egyptians of all walks of life.  He knew that we were essentially a peaceful people, who wanted more than anything to cultivate the art of peace in our land.  We were not afraid of the challenge, and he knew it.

Every day, he would go himself, to visit new projects and make sure that progress was being made in those vital industries and agriculture schemes; which would bring a sense of purpose and pride to every Egyptian.  He had seen his fellow citizens as heroes on the battlefield and he would have them become heroes in the long-term struggle to make the desert flourish, and to find food and lodging and schooling for every child of his beloved land.

Sadat's' Egypt, as the Egypt of today, never forgot her Arab and African identity.  His overriding concern, however, was the welfare and prosperity of the people of Egypt.  A striking example of Egyptís Arab-African character is our historical special relationship with our southern neighbor, Sudan, which he spared no effort to consolidate.

Iím happy to note that the Charter of Political and Economic Integration, between Egypt and Sudan, was signed yesterday, October the 12th; paving the way for a deepening and strengthening of the natural ties between the two peoples of the Nile Valley.  The observation that Egypt is the gift of the Nile remains true, and the forging of a close alliance between the nine riparian countries of the Nile Basin would certainly open the wide horizons of transnational development.

He never rested from the task of making Egypt a land of peace and dignity for every one of its citizens.  This is no mean achievement in the world, demanding his attention all the time from crisis to crisis, to the threat of war, and to the terrible prospect of seeing what he had built up exposed to the winds of violence.  His vision of peace was both spiritual and practical.  He was firm in his belief that negotiation could disarm the madness of conflict; that compromise could neutralize the arrogance of anger; that love could conquer hatred; and that kindness would yet prevail in the counsels of men.1  He could not conceive that human beings should be locked in mortal combat forever, nor did he forget that peace alone would give him the chance to provide a decent life for his fellow citizens.

Often, he used to tell me that the role of women was not inferior to that of men in this tremendous struggle for improvement and dignity.  He was aware of the fact that the enhancement of the status of women was one way of drawing the nation together in a common purpose of reconstruction and progress.  I trust that I played my part in helping his dream to come true.  In fact, Iím proud to be one of the many million Egyptian women who responded to his call for responsible citizenship in the light of our Islamic faith and our Arab tradition.  He died for his ideals, but his ideals have lived on and there is no looking back on the path towards our place in the sun of modern civilization.

Will you permit me to share with you some of my innermost thoughts as I stand before you today? We have all witnessed over the years, the failures of individual and collective endeavor in the cause of peace.  As I speak, thousands are dying in the Middle East and Central America, and in many parts of Africa and Asia.  The Cold War has frozen stiff, and man is everywhere a wolf to man.  We can give way to despair, or we can hope that the scourge of war will pass us by; or simply bury our thoughts and feelings in newsprint or the TV tube.  But are we not consequently diminished as human beings? Is there no way in which we can perhaps try, yet again, to overcome fear and prejudice? To see our way to a new meeting of hearts? Can we not, together, devise yet another way of rediscovering our human -- humanity in the pursuit of peace and mutual understanding?

Is not a National Press Club an ideal forum from which an appeal might go out to the world for one more call for a common approach to try and find ways of rekindling the hope of peace in peoplesí hearts? From the ghettos of crowded cities, from the parched deserts of Africa, and the sinister hells of civil war and repression, a cry ďhopeĒ would -- a cry "hope" would echo back.

Perhaps we can try to promote an international peace conference of the news media, to discover how best to use your immense influence to redirect man's energy to peaceful endeavors.  You are the true servants of mankind's conscience.  It is now time that you engaged in fruitful dialogue with your fellows in this world, where all else has failed, the still, sad music of humanity may yet succeed and you can tune the instrument.

Madam President, ladies and gentlemen, Iíd like to seize this opportunity to thank through you, all the members of the media throughout the United States of America who wrote and spoke so kindly and so bravely of my country and of my husband during his lifetime, and especially after his death.

Madam President, dear friends, to conclude, allow me to quote from a poem which expressed a hope we all share:

Nation with nation, land with land,
Inarmed shall live as comrades free;
in every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one fraternity.

Thank you.

1 Stirring multi-figured textual moment featuring anaphora, parallelism, and climax

2 A Vista, John Addington Symonds

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