F.W. DE KLERK TO BE HAMILTON'S GREAT NAMES SPEAKER THIS SPRING
De Klerk, South Africa's last president under the system of apartheid, willspeak on Wednesday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m., in the Margaret Bundy Scott FieldHouse. The talk is free and open to the public. Details for large-groupreservations will be forthcoming.
De Klerk, along with Nelson Mandela, played a major role in initiating thereforms that marked the end of apartheid and white minority rule in SouthAfrica. Soon after becoming president in 1989, de Klerk lifted a 30-year banon the African National Congress (ANC), released ANC leader Nelson Mandela fromprison, abolished the principal laws of apartheid and instituted constitutionalreform. De Klerk also began laying the groundwork for South Africa's firstever multiracial elections which were held in 1994. A year earlier, he andMandela were co-recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize for their roles in thedemocratization of South Africa.
Frederik Willem de Klerk was born in Johannesburg in 1936 to a prominentAfrikaner family. Both his father and uncle had held prominent positions inthe South African government, and the young de Klerk also seemed interested inpursuing a career in the public service. After graduating from law school, deKlerk worked as an attorney before winning his first parliamentary seat in1972. In 1978, he was appointed to the South African Cabinet, and from1982-1989, de Klerk served as the leader of the National Party in Transvaal,the most populous of South Africa's four provinces. He was elected nationalleader of the party in February 1989 and became president seven months laterafter P.W. Botha was forced to resign because of illness and allegations oferratic behavior.
De Klerk and the National Party lost the 1994 elections to Nelson Mandela andthe ANC. However, de Klerk was sworn in as a deputy president under Mandela ina coalition
government that was created to ensure a smooth transition to democracy. In May1996, de Klerk resigned from his post as deputy president and retired fromactive politics a year later. He now spends most of his time lecturingthroughout the world and working on his autobiography.
De Klerk's talk in the Great Names Series follows presentations byfellow Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, political strategists Mary Matalin and JamesCarville, and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell.Best-selling author Maya Angelou was scheduled to be last fall's GreatNames speaker, however, her speech was canceled due to illness.