'An ideal for which I’m prepared to die': in Mandela’s own words
Former South African president Nelson Mandela celebrates his 94th birthday with family in Qunu, South Africa in this Wednesday, July 18, 2012 file photo. (AP / Schalk van Zuydam)
Published Thursday, December 5, 2013 5:10PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, December 5, 2013 7:12PM EST
Nelson Mandela’s battle against the South African apartheid and his post-apartheid leadership inspired the world. Here are some of Mandela’s most memorable words:
1. "During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." – A statement to the court during the Rivonia trial, April, 20, 1964.
2. "I stand here before you not as a prophet but as a humble servant of you, the people. Your tireless and heroic sacrifices have made it possible for me to be here today. I therefore place the remaining years of my life in your hands." -- Addressing a crowd after his release from prison on Feb. 11, 1990.
3. "Let it never be said by future generations that indifference, cynicism or selfishness made us fail to live up to the ideals of humanism which the Nobel Peace Prize encapsulates." -- On receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, Dec. 10, 1993.
4. "Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another ... The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement. Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!" – Inauguration speech, May 10, 1994.
5. "The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come. The time to build is upon us ... We enter into a covenant that we shall build a society in which all South Africans, both black and white, will be able to walk tall, without any fear in their hearts, assured of their inalienable right to human dignity - a rainbow nation at peace with itself and the world." -- At inauguration.
6. "When I was among the crowd I raised my right fist and there was a roar. I had not been able to do that for 27 years and it gave me a surge of strength and joy…. As I finally walked through those gates to enter a car on the other side, I felt even at the age of 71 that my life was beginning anew. My 10,000 days of imprisonment were over." – From his autobiography 'Long Walk to Freedom', recounting his release from prison after 27 years.
7. "I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." -- From his autobiography ‘Long Walk to Freedom.’
8. “Only through hardship, sacrifice and militant action can freedom be won. The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.” – Chapter 42, “Long Walk to Freedom”
9. "This is a war. It has killed more people than has been the case in all previous wars and in all previous natural disasters ... We must not continue to be debating, to be arguing, when people are dying." -- Mandela on AIDS.
10. "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 lays defeat and death." -- from“Long Walk to Freedom”
11. "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." -- from “Long Walk to Freedom”
12. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." – from a 2003 speech
13. "It always seems impossible until it’s done."
14. "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."
15. “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”