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10 Most Inspiring Nelson Mandela Quotes

Last week, the world lost an extraordinarily inspirational man: Nelson Mandela. The South African president, politician and philanthropist was famously imprisoned for 27 years, but rose above everything he went through to become an important revolutionary and a teacher to both his people and the world. His loss has been felt everywhere, and his quotes, memories and stories have flooded the Internet over the last week. Here at PI, we wanted to honor the late leader by celebrating his brave life with 10 of his most inspirational quotes.

  • “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”
  • “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.”
  • “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mine worker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”
  • “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lies defeat and death.”
  • “When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. 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. The true test of our devotion to freedom is just beginning.”
  • “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.”
  • “A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end, he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial and uninformed.”
  • “The presence of so many women from so many parts of our land underlines the weight of the pledge for women of South Africa to join hands with government for Unity, Peace and Development. The legacy of oppression weighs heavily on women. As long as women are bound by poverty and as long as they are looked down upon, human rights will lack substance. As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.”
  • “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”
  • “We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

Do you have a favorite Mandela quote that we didn’t feature? Please share it in the comments below!


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  1. hobbithobbithobbit52891

    Posted by hobbithobbithobbit52891 on December 22, 2013 at 16:53

    total role model. he was an amazing person.

  2. Abigail-Fighter

    Posted by Abigail-Fighter on December 20, 2013 at 19:40

    I’d just like to add that he helped pass the Choice of Termination of pregnancy act of 1996 in South Africa. He was pro death.

  3. Clairabear

    Posted by Clairabear on December 13, 2013 at 20:45

    I loved the one about courage!!

  4. TaySwiftie13ts

    Posted by TaySwiftie13ts on December 13, 2013 at 16:04

    R.I.P. Nelson Mandela.

  5. IdaPahus

    Posted by IdaPahus on December 12, 2013 at 23:42

    Such a great man and inspiration!! Hope “Madiba” is in Heaven now!

  6. Paris

    Posted by Paris on December 12, 2013 at 22:30

    After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.

    ~Nelson Mandela

    It’s crazy how a lot of people know nothing of the man who helped end apartheid!

  7. violinlover

    Posted by violinlover on December 12, 2013 at 18:34

    •“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.”

    Oh my goodness! I love this… It’s pretty amazing. Courage is defeating it. We’re not going to be without doubt, and fear, as that is a part of this broken world, but when you’re able to overcome it, the feeling is as if I’m flying. Pretty crazy.

  8. nerdyburdy01

    Posted by nerdyburdy01 on December 12, 2013 at 16:49

    The world has lost a great man. RIP Nelson.

  9. belladoesntsuck

    Posted by belladoesntsuck on December 12, 2013 at 16:38

    Nelson Mandela is one of my heroes/role models! Love him so much!!! He will be missed! R.I.P. Nelson “Rolihlahla” Mandela!!!

  10. PraisingPrincess

    Posted by PraisingPrincess on December 12, 2013 at 16:16

    Thanks for posting this! I have found that many people do not care about Nelson Mandela’s death or have even heard of him. I love his quote that you already wrote: “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” I also encourage reading his autobiography: “Long Walk to Freedom.” It was a long read, but so worth it!