Inspirational quotes from Nelson Mandela

Former South African president Nelson Mandela looks on as he celebrates his birthday at his house in Qunu, Eastern Cape Credit: Reuters
Former South African president Nelson Mandela died at age 95.
Credit: Reuters

Nelson Mandela died peacefully at his Johannesburg home on Thursday after a prolonged lung infection, President Jacob Zuma said. In a nationally televised address, Zuma said South Africa’s first black president would be accorded a full state funeral. He ordered flags to be flown at half staff.

Below are a number of Mandela’s inspirational quotes that define who he was as a world leader.

On education:
“Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world” – In a speech at University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, July 16, 2003

On legacy:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.” – At the 90th birthday of anti-apartheid activist Walter Sisulu, Johannesburg, May 18, 2002

On time:
“I never think of the time I have lost. I just carry out a programme because it’s there. It’s mapped out for me.” – In a conversation with American journalist Richard Stengel, May 3, 1993

On never giving up:
“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” – From his 1994 autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”

On writing:
“A good pen can also remind us of the happiest moments in our lives, bring noble ideas into our dens, our blood and our souls. It can turn tragedy into hope and victory.” – From a letter to Zindzi Mandela, written on Robben Island, Feb. 10, 1980

On character:
“It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.” – At the Foreign Correspondents Association’s annual dinner, Johannesburg, Nov. 21, 1997

On patience and perseverance:
“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.” – From his 1994 autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”

On language:
“Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savor their songs.” – From his 1994 autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”

On bravery:
“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.” – From his 1994 autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”

On becoming president:
“In my country we go to prison first and then become president.” – From his 1994 autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom”


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