Africa is beset by problems: AIDS, malaria, unemployment, undereducation and poverty. Liberal democracy is only in its infancy in but a few nations. But a problem is an opportunity for resolution, and no one knew this better than the Rev. Leon Sullivan, a great human rights activists who passed away last April.
Known as the "Lion of Zion" by his 6,000 parishioners at the Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia and those in his cause, Sullivan graduated from Columbia University and the Union Theological Seminary. He became known as the bridge-
builder between Africa and the United States, an untiring activist for legal rights, civil rights, voting rights and human rights for all.
Although Sullivan's heart has been stilled, the heartbeat of his life continues. One of his pet projects was the African-African American Summit, which is dedicated to building an economic, cultural and political bridge between the United States and the African continent based on principles of empowerment, enterprise, business development, self-reliance and democracy.
Now this project will continue under the leadership of my good friend Andrew Young. Young was Martin Luther King Jr.'s right hand, a fellow member of the U.S. Congress, the mayor of Atlanta, a former ambassador to the United Nations and one of our nation's most respected leaders. Along with Young, I was honored by the Sullivan family by being named the vice chair of the summit to work with the thousands of activists who want to create an African-American free-
Young and I are committed to the goal of advancing Sullivan's mission to help our brethren in Africa to create a continent of democracy, peace and prosperity and, ultimately, to create a United States of Africa. In the past, Sullivan's summit has created more than 200,000 jobs, trained bankers, created a micro-loan and investment program for start-up businesses, built schools, placed more teachers throughout the African continent and trained more than 1 million farmers.
Policies that would help ensure economic growth in Africa include allowing for the private ownership of property, lower tax rates to reduce the costs of both labor and capital, stable monetary and exchange rate policies, and incentives that will increase foreign investment with a focus on privatization and entrepreneurship.
It is an honor to help organize the Summit of Hope with Young, Dr. C.T. Wright, Hope Sullivan Rose and others this November in Nigeria. The summit will focus on expanding and encouraging educational opportunities, business development, health care and democratization. One of our top priorities will be the issue of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and our commitment toward curbing and preventing that disease's spread throughout the sub-Saharan continent.
President Bill Clinton was the first president of the United States to visit Africa; it would be a wonderful tribute to all Sullivan stood for were President George W. Bush to be the first president of the 21st century to visit Africa and join us this November in Nigeria at our Summit of Hope.
Sullivan believed that a nation's greatest assets are not the wealth that can be seen, but the unseen potential of the human mind and spirit. Africa is rich in resources, but its greatest resources are in the hearts, minds and talents of the people. Unfetter the chains of oppression anywhere and freedom and prosperity will flourish. Poverty is not the natural condition of mankind.
Sullivan inspired Martin Luther King Jr. to create the Operation Breadbasket program - the economic arm of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He also realized that there must be a trained workforce able to avail itself of employment opportunities, and he formed the Opportunities Industrialization Center program to train people for these jobs: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. Sullivan was a fisher of men, and he taught millions of people how to fish.
In 1971, he joined the corporate board of General Motors, the single largest employer of blacks in South Africa. From his seat on the board at GM, Sullivan articulated what would become the model for those doing business in that county, the Sullivan Principles. These principles revolutionized the way American business was conducted in South Africa, holding that there would be no segregation of the races in any eating or working facilities of the corporations doing business in South Africa and that the corporations would train blacks as well as whites for supervisory jobs, and improve the quality of education for the children of the employees.
These principles helped play a crucial role in ending apartheid in South Africa and freeing Nelson Mandela. Once democracy was in place in South Africa, Sullivan began working with Kofi Annan to expound the Global Sullivan Principles for all corporations doing business in nations whose human rights records fell short of the universal ideal.
Sullivan received many awards during his lifetime, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George H.W. Bush and the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award from Clinton.
Billy Graham once said the most important part of church is what you do when you walk out the door. Sullivan lived this ethic, and the world will long note and remember how it was improved by all he taught us, gave us and inspired in us.