There was a time when quoting Nelson Mandela could lead to a prison sentence. Under the Apartheid regime, the quoting of banned or imprisoned people was a criminal offense. Yet today, Mandela is one of the most quoted people in the world. His words are wise, compassionate and often funny.  Reading them, one gets a sense of his respect for all people, his humility and his deep love for South Africa.

So today—as our beloved Madiba faces the last great hurdle of his life—I want to share just some of his words of inspiration and insight, maybe even a warning or two. His words, just as his life, are a legacy to us all.

Hope is a powerful weapon and no one power on earth can deprive you of it. (1969)

Our nation comes from a history of deep division and strife; let us never through our deeds or words, take our people back down that road. (2008)

Sometimes it calls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. (2005)

Those who conduct themselves with morality, integrity and consistency need not fear the forces of inhumanity and cruelty. (2003)

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. (2002)

I am fundamentally an optimist. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed towards the sun, one’s feet moving forward. (1994)

In the end, reconciliation is a spiritual process, which requires more than just a legal framework. It has to happen in the hearts and minds of people. (1994)

Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others—qualities which are within easy reach of every soul—are the foundation of one’s spiritual life. (1975)

The call now is for each of us to ask ourselves: are we doing all we can do to help build the country of our dreams? (1998)

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. (1980)

My country is rich in minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than minerals and diamonds. (1995)

I would like it to be said that, “Here lies a man who has done his duty on earth.” That is all. (2006)

They will say that Madiba, and much, much more.

Thank you for touching our hearts with your life and words.


The above quotes have been taken from “Nelson Mandela By Himself – the Authorised book of Quotations” (Macmillan, 2011)

Image: Toniflap /