Thursday, November 12, 2009
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Frederik Willem "F.W." de Klerk had an opportunity to teach law, but chose to go into the family business — politics. Throughout much of his career in a variety of ministerial positions under Prime Minister P.W. Botha, he supported university segregation and showed little interest in apartheid reform.
Yet, in his very first speech after being elected state president in 1989, de Klerk called for a non-racist South Africa and for negotiations about the country's future. Within two years, he had lifted the government's ban on the ANC and released Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners.
De Klerk was awarded the Nobel Peace prize in 1993 for helping to bring apartheid to an end and drafting a new constitution based on "one person, one vote." He subsequently joined Mandela's Government of National Unity as second deputy president.
De Klerk announced his retirement from politics in 1997, going on to establish the F.W. de Klerk Foundation in 2000 and the Global Leadership Foundation in 2004.