Reception: A Conversation with H.E. Quett Masire, Former President of Botswana

AAI Trustee Maurice Tempelsman, Chairman of Lazare Kaplan International, and The Africa-America Institute hosted a well-attended reception and book signing for H.E. Quett Ketumile Joni Masire, former President of the Republic of Botswana, in honor of his new book, Very Brave or Very Foolish: Memoirs of an African Democrat. The reception was held at the Century Club in New York City. Over 40 representatives from the New York and international diplomatic community were in attendance, including H.E. Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Laureate and Professor at Columbia University, Ambassador Donald Steinberg, Vice President of Multilateral Affairs at the International Crisis Group, and Stephen Lewis, Jr., Editor of Very Brave or Very Foolish and former President of Carleton College. The event also was attended by the Ambassadors to the United Nations from Angola, Finland, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, and Tanzania as well as several other prominent African diplomats and representatives from the corporate and NGO communities. Mora McLean, AAI President & CEO, welcomed the audience and Leon Tempelsman, President of Lazare Kaplan International, introduced H.E. Quett Masire.

In his remarks, H.E. Quett Masire highlighted several stories and themes from his book. His remarks focused on his life and career, particularly the years he served as President of the Republic of Botswana from 1980 until his retirement in 1998. A self-described “reluctant politician”, H.E. Quett Masire stated that he had always held farming as his true passion. After working as a teacher in his early career, he joined the late Sir Seretse Khama, the first President of Botswana, in founding the Botswana Democratic Party in 1962.

H.E. Quett Masire and South African Consul General Fikile Magubane


In his remarks, H.E. Quett Masire noted that when Botswana’s leaders asked for independence from Great Britain, they were told they were “either brave or very foolish” to do so. More than forty years later, Botswana has achieved what most thought was impossible: a vibrant multi-party and non-racial democracy, with one of the world’s fastest rates of economic growth and very low levels of corruption. H.E. Quett Masire was at the heart of this success. He held the position of Minister of Finance and Development Planning, in which he served as the chief architect and the general manager of Botswana’s economic success. He then succeeded H.E. Seretse Khama as President in 1980, and continued to lead his country down a path of socioeconomic growth and development, using revenue from Botswana’s growing industries to invest in the expansion of social services in the areas of education, health and communications.

H.E. Quett Masire’s remarks provided the audience with a frank account of the choices made and the successes rendered as well as an identification of certain failures in Botswana’s journey as a nation. Following his remarks, a Q&A session with the audience was held and moderated by Mora McLean, AAI President & CEO.

View photos from this reception.

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