Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) was a South African black nationalist who spent 27 years in prison for fighting against the country’s discriminatory apartheid system of racial segregation.
His negotiations in the early 1990s with South African President F.W. de Klerk helped bring an end to apartheid and ushered in a peaceful transition to majority rule. Mandela served as president (1994–99) of the country’s first multiethnic government.
Every year on June 18, Mandela Day is celebrated on his birthday in remembrance of his effort towards tearing down South Africa’s oppressive government and installing democracy.
Here are some of his best quotes:
1. “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”
2. “A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”
3. “As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” – in London’s Trafalgar Square in 2005.
4. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
5. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Address by Mandela at launch of Mindset Network in July 2003.
6. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
7. “That our government has made significant progress in bringing potable water nearer to so many more people than was previously the case, I rate amongst the most important achievements of democracy in our country” – ‘No Water, No Future’ speech on August 28, 2002.
8. “I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses. We must never forget that it is our duty to protect this environment.”
9. “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”
10. “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”
11. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
12. “Many people in this country have paid the price before me and many will pay the price after me.”
13. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
14. “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”
15. “It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.”
16. “It is not our diversity which divides us; it is not our ethnicity, or religion or culture that divides us. Since we have achieved our freedom, there can only be one division amongst us: between those who cherish democracy and those who do not.”
17. “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
18. “A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favour. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.”
19. “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” – London’s Trafalgar Square in 2005.
20. “It is in your hands to create a better world for all who live in it.”
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