When Nelson Mandela died in 2013, the world mourned a passionate advocate of democracy and a leader in the fight for civil rights. As South Africa’s first black president and first president to be elected via a fully democratic election, Mandela is widely known as the “Father of the Nation.” Today, Nelson Mandela quotes remind us all that some fights are worth fighting, no matter the cost.
Born to the Thembu royal family in South Africa, Mandela lived his early life according to traditional Thembu culture. His father was an illiterate polygamist, yet his mother valued education and sent her son to a local Methodist school at the age of seven. He later traveled to be educated alongside the children of the Thembu regent at the “Great Palace.” Mandela developed a love for learning, and eventually attended law school.
With his continuing education, Mandela refused to ignore the many social injustices put in place by the South African government. The white-only government supported apartheid, a racist system of segregation that granted privileges to whites. Mandela worked for decades alongside the African National Congress to overthrow apartheid.
Police arrested Mandela several times for his political influence and actions. In 1962, the government charged him for leading a sabotage campaign and sentenced him to life in prison. The revolutionary served 27 years but was released in 1990 amid growing national pressure and fears of a civil war. Only four years after his release, Mandela was elected president in a multiracial general election and focused his five-year term on reconciling the nation’s racial groups and investigating past instances of human rights abuse.
While South Africa’s first black president experienced his fair share of controversy, his overall legacy is one of philanthropy and social justice. These Nelson Mandela quotes come from different times in his life but all speak to his passion for activism and democracy.
Here are the most notable Nelson Mandela quotes:
1. “One of the most difficult things is not to change society, but to change yourself.”
2. “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”
3. “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”
4. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
5. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
6. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
7. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
8. “I never lose. I either win or learn.”
9. “You can start changing our world for the better daily, no matter how small the action.”
10. “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
11. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”
12. “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”
13. “People respond in accordance to how you treat them.”
14. Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
15. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
16. “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.”
17. “Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”
18. “Fools multiply when wise men are silent.”
19. “After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.”
20. “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness bloom.”
21. “Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
22. “If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important, and you do that by being genuine and humble.”
23. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”
24. “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
25. “As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
Nelson Mandela devoted his life to demolishing apartheid and will go down in history for changing the world. Share these Nelson Mandela quotes with friends and family to keep his legacy alive.