The 2010 Fifa World Cup is an example of what a united South Africa could be like, President Jacob Zuma said on Wednesday.
"Every citizen became an ambassador of our beautiful country," he told the national social cohesion summit in Soweto.
In the build-up to the event, community conversations were held to ask what it meant to be South African.
Many participants identified the unity and national pride of South Africans during the World Cup as a success story.
"It showed us what is possible if we put our country first... " Zuma said.
"We need to ask ourselves whether that is the standard of South Africans that we ask, or if there is more that we should and can do to build the South African vision?"
The summit is being held in Kliptown, where 3000 delegates of all races met in 1955 to draft the Freedom Charter, which calls for a non-racial South Africa that belongs to all who live in it.
"As leaders we have the responsibility to bring about [the] South Africa as it was envisaged by those who met here," Zuma told the few hundred delegates.
This meant building national unity out of multiple identities, he said.
It would entail dealing with issues that still caused divisions, including poverty, unemployment, inequality, homelessness, and landlessness.
The two-day event is hosted by the arts and culture department.
Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile said the summit would not be a mere talk shop.
"Out of it must come decisive steps," he said.
These included a clear plan of action to heal the wounds of the past and strengthen social cohesion.
Political parties, business leaders, and civil society and government representatives attended.
Among them were National Assembly Speaker Max Sisulu, former speaker Frene Ginwala, and Zanele Mbeki, wife of former president Thabo Mbeki.
The summit's theme is: "Working together to create a proud and caring society".
Following Zuma's opening address, delegates were discussing the role of the judiciary, Parliament, political parties, and traditional leaders, among others, in building an inclusive society.
Zuma announced the need for the social cohesion summit in May, following the controversy caused by Brett Murray's painting "The Spear", which depicted Zuma with his genitals exposed, and exposed rifts in South African society.
He had previously called for such a summit in 2009.