Top 10 Nelson Mandela Quotes

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South African anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison and became South Africa’s first black president, passed away when he was 95. The world sure knows him and remembers for his deeds and his sacrifices made for human race. Madiba, as he is dearly called by the people of South Africa and around the world was more than just an activist. He was a visionary, a revolutionary, an icon and a deity to many. The more we say about this man, the less it seems like it. Not just sacrifices, protests and movements that were noted during his life, but so were his words, which moved, inspired and instilled a sense of perception for social issues in millions of people around the globe.

Here are ten quotes that Mandela is fondly remembered by.

10. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”


In his autobiographical work, ‘Long Walk to Freedom,’ he talks about sharing his Noble Peace Prize with the then President Fredrerik Willem de Klerk. He says in his book, “I was often asked how could I accept the award jointly with Mr. de Klerk after I had criticized him so severely. Although I would not take back my criticisms, I could say that he had made a genuine and indispensable contribution to the peace process. I never sought to undermine Mr. de Klerk.” These words not just show the humility in him but teach mankind the simplest of the virtues.

 9. “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.”


This one again comes from his autobiography, in which he says, “My country is rich in the minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil, but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than the purest diamonds.”  He says that the lives of the men of his country have truly triumphed over fear and have lived lives that epitomized these very words.

8. “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.”

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In his autobiography, he beautifully illustrates how a truly humble leader is one who makes an attempt to understand the psyche of each of every member of the group. He says that taking an effort to listen to all the opinions in the group before venturing your opinion makes all the difference that needs to make things right.

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.”


An ode to the fact that racism is not passed on genetically, but passed on through teachings. In this ode, Mandela gives us a picture of how he wants us to see the world with no differences, a picture o what drove him through his struggle against apartheid.

6. “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.”


The fact that we are born in this world to serve a purpose, to redefine our destiny is brought about in these words. There is no point in living a life that is content with the simplest of things, achieve big and aspire to become the implausible. He never fails to advocate that audacity surpasses all virtues of mankind and that this is the very virtue that made him the person he became to be.

5. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”


A book so enriching is sure to be remembered for more than a mere handful of quotes. As he says in his book, “As a leader, one must sometimes take actions that are unpopular, or whose results will not be known for years to come. There are victories whose glory lies only in the fact that they are known to those who win them. This is particularly true of prison, where one must find consolation in being true to one’s ideals, even if no one else knows of it.” His achievements and laurels that he won speak of itself and is beautifully captured by this quote.

4. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”


Nothing in this world is impossible and Mandela makes sure to remind us of that. As clichéd as it might sound, there is no such thing as impossible ‘cause even the very word says that it really is possible. Mandela talks about the task of the anti-apartheid campaign which was once considered a task next to impossible only until he achieved the unthinkable.

3 “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”


In his Speech at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannseburg, 2003, Mandela told the world the importance of education in the simplest of words. From the poorest of countries to the richest of nations, education is the key to moving forward in any society. Aptly put, he says that his education from his primary level to his degree in law have all helped him in achieving greater things in life, which would have been impossible otherwise.

2. “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.”


This is taken off from his Letter to Winne Mandela, written on Robben Island in 1975. His wife was rarely able to visit, being regularly imprisoned for political activity, and his daughters first visited in December 1975; Winnie got out of prison in 1977 but was forcibly settled in Brandfort, still unable to visit him. This could probably be the best thing that was ever recorded from Mandela’s life. His life has some to offer to every individual on earth that seems too vast to even explore. This fine quote by Mandela paints a picture of the relentless, selfless and the holy man that he was.

1. “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.”


On the occasion of the 90th celebration of Walter Sisulu at the Walter Sisulu Hall in Johannesburg in 2002, Mandela spoke to his audience about the one thing that has kept him going throughout all his hardships, determination and the perseverance to dream big and achieve it in a way that will make an immense difference to not just your life but to those around you as well. Mandela truly defines the true meaning of life in this quote by stating the significance of one’s living on the planet.

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