Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

Citizenship

17 Inspiring Quotes From Nelson Mandela

A few names are chiseled into the world’s collective memory. They become symbols that represent not just the person who had the name, but also all the causes and principles he or she championed. These names transcend human experience, giving us all an eternal well to draw hope from.

All around the world, statues, murals, paintings, illustrations, billboards, screensavers, tattoos and much more pay tribute to Nelson Mandela. He inspires people every day and he’ll always be with humanity as a guiding light.

Nelson Mandela muralImage: Flickr: Wally Gobetz

Nelson Mandela’s name evokes that brave man who struggled for decades to end apartheid, mending a deep wound in South African history.

But his name also evokes equality. Strength. Freedom. Optimism. Wisdom. Generosity. It evokes all the best qualities that global citizens strive for and it gives us hope that global equality can someday be achieved.

For Nelson Mandela’s birthday, I dug around for some of his most moving words, and was reminded that a man or woman of such brilliance comes around only a few times each century. As you read his words, I hope you become inspired, too:

Nelson Mandela mural 1Image: Flickr: Wally Gobetz

1) “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same”

2) “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.”

3) “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

4) “When people are determined they can overcome anything.”

Nelson Mandela illustrationImage: Flickr: Tomorrow

5) “Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.”

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

7) “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.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.”

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

Nelson Mandela mural 2Image: Flickr: Linh Nguyen

9) “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

10) “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.

11) “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.”

12) “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.”

13) “When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

14) “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

Nelson Mandela paintingImage: Flickr: Armin Rodler

15) “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”

16) “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.”

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

Nelson Mandela mural 3Image: Flickr: byronv2


Are you ready to change the world? Summon your inner Nelson Mandela? I know I am. To learn more about this extraordinary man, read my colleague's piece here.

And remember to keep your inner light shining as you go about your days, so those nearby can shine alongside.