, (PressExposure) July 18, 2006 -- Good morning Mr. Mandela,
Today is your 88th birthday - as always on the 18th of July, I would like to wish you all the best for your health and wellbeing in the future. I am sure you are going to spend your well publicized day of honour with lots of friends, family, children and admirers again, as usual.
This year for the first time I want to congratulate you in writing, however - as a German expatriate who has lived in South Africa for the last 22 years, I feel it is time to show my appreciation in a more permanent way in return for all you have done for this lovely country, and my thoughts may well reflect the sentiments of many fellow citizens.
We often see on TV, or read in the papers about the well-deserved honours you receive all over the world for what you have achieved in your lifetime, and our hearts go out to you in admiration for a man of such integrity, benevolence and stamina.
These notions are shared in all sectors of society, everywhere. It shows a universal gratitude for your abilities as a statesman and exemplary qualities of a human being - if it hadn't been for your leadership, this country and indeed this continent would be a far less prosperous place to live in. Many crucial challenges for the transition to democracy in this country have been overcome, numerous others remain.
I imagine that it must be very difficult for a man of your caliber, wisdom and consciousness to watch the seemingly insurmountable obstacles of poverty, crime and AIDS threatening the fabric of Africa's culture - and know that a solution could well be reached.
Fighting against the symptoms of these excesses, as we do, will only give them more power and make them worse - we need to work on the root of these disruptive indicators which are all based in fear, social and individual separation, and the greed for power. Violence as a means to assert control will only temporarily reduce feelings of insecurity and anger.
As long as we think of ourselves as poor and victims of history, we will continue to experience violent and corrupt struggles for dominance. As long as we don't focus on service and contribution instead of segregate and competitive ethnic cultures we will not feel more secure in our country, community and family.
Irresponsible, even reckless behaviour cannot be condoned, of course - but ignorance needs to be forgiven because the perpetrators simply don't know better. There is nothing that has to be changed, except our perception - to recognize that our reality is a mirror-image of our self. This is the hardest of all things to do, hence the universal challenge to 'Know Thyself'.
You know this and have acted all you life accordingly with enormous courage and strength, which is what makes you stand head and shoulders above other world leaders. If more of them had your understanding, the world would be a much better place today. We will eventually get there, but it is going to take time and effort. In the meantime, you shine as a beacon to others.
So today is one more occasion to celebrate who you are, and I salute you. I wish you, and us, many happy returns of the glorious day you were born.
Yours sincerely in gratitude and appreciation,