Title Image - Quotes by Author Nelson MandelaPhoto Credit: WikiMedia Commons

Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Nelson Mandela. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.

Wikipedia Summary for Nelson Mandela

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (Xhosa: [xolíɬaɬa mandɛ̂ːla]; 18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the country's first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid by tackling institutionalised racism and fostering racial reconciliation. Ideologically an African nationalist and socialist, he served as the president of the African National Congress (ANC) party from 1991 to 1997.

A Xhosa speaker, Mandela was born to the Thembu royal family in Mvezo, Union of South Africa. He studied law at the University of Fort Hare and the University of Witwatersrand before working as a lawyer in Johannesburg. There he became involved in anti-colonial and African nationalist politics, joining the ANC in 1943 and co-founding its Youth League in 1944. After the National Party's white-only government established apartheid, a system of racial segregation that privileged whites, he and the ANC committed themselves to its overthrow. Mandela was appointed president of the ANC's Transvaal branch, rising to prominence for his involvement in the 1952 Defiance Campaign and the 1955 Congress of the People. He was repeatedly arrested for seditious activities and was unsuccessfully prosecuted in the 1956 Treason Trial. Influenced by Marxism, he secretly joined the banned South African Communist Party (SACP). Although initially committed to non-violent protest, in association with the SACP he co-founded the militant Umkhonto we Sizwe in 1961 and led a sabotage campaign against the government. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1962, and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state following the Rivonia Trial.

Mandela served 27 years in prison, split between Robben Island, Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison. Amid growing domestic and international pressure and fears of racial civil war, President F. W. de Klerk released him in 1990. Mandela and de Klerk led efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid, which resulted in the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the ANC to victory and became president. Leading a broad coalition government which promulgated a new constitution, Mandela emphasised reconciliation between the country's racial groups and created the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate past human rights abuses. Economically, Mandela's administration retained its predecessor's liberal framework despite his own socialist beliefs, also introducing measures to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand healthcare services. Internationally, he acted as mediator in the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing trial and served as secretary-general of the Non-Aligned Movement from 1998 to 1999. He declined a second presidential term and was succeeded by his deputy, Thabo Mbeki. Mandela became an elder statesman and focused on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the charitable Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela was a controversial figure for much of his life. Although critics on the right denounced him as a communist terrorist and those on the far left deemed him too eager to negotiate and reconcile with apartheid's supporters, he gained international acclaim for his activism. Widely regarded as an icon of democracy and social justice, he received more than 250 honours, including the Nobel Peace Prize. He is held in deep respect within South Africa, where he is often referred to by his Thembu clan name, Madiba, and described as the "Father of the Nation".

When the water starts boiling
it is foolish to turn off the heat.

--Nelson Mandela

It is most unusual to return to a place that has changed in ways you yourself have altered.

--Nelson Mandela

Blaming things on the past does not make them better.

--Nelson Mandela

I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all.

--Nelson Mandela

The knowledge that in your day you did your duty, and lived up to the expectations of your fellow men is in itself a rewarding experience and magnificent achievement.

--Nelson Mandela

If our expectations--if our fondest prayers and dreams-- are not realized, then we should all bear in mind that the greatest glory of living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time you fall.

--Nelson Mandela

The secret to success is to learn to accept the impossible, to do without the indispensable, and to bear the intolerable.

--Nelson Mandela

History will surely judge us harshly if we do not respond with all the energy and resources that we can bring to bear in the fight against HIV AIDS.

--Nelson Mandela

Reconciliation means working together to correct the legacy of past injustice.

--Nelson Mandela

Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.

--Nelson Mandela

I discovered even before I went to jail that apartheid was not run by people who were monolithic in their approach. Some of them didn't even believe in apartheid.

--Nelson Mandela

If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.

--Nelson Mandela

Whenever I am with energetic young people, I feel like a recharged battery.

--Nelson Mandela

The Commonwealth makes the world safe for diversity.

--Nelson Mandela

In the 21st Century, the capacity to communicate will almost certainly be a key human right.

--Nelson Mandela

We need a fundamental change of mindset with regards to the way we speak and behave about sex and sexuality. Boys and men have a particularly critical role in this regard, changing the chauvinist and demeaning ways sexuality and women were traditionally dealt with in both our actions and speaking.

--Nelson Mandela

When those in power deny you of freedom the only path to freedom is power.

--Nelson Mandela

It's never too late to do the right thing.

--Nelson Mandela

There was much in such a society that was primitive and insecure and it certainly could never measure up to the demands of the present epoch. But in such a society are contained the seeds of revolutionary democracy in which none will be held in slavery.

--Nelson Mandela

I say to all those leaders, do not look the other way. Do not hesitate... It is within your power to avoid a genocide of humanity.

--Nelson Mandela

When I closed THE GRAPES OF WRATH, I was a different man. It enriched my powers of thinking and discipline, and my relationships. I left prison more informed than when I went in. And the more informed you are, the less arrogant and aggressive you are.

--Nelson Mandela

AIDS is no longer just a disease, it is a human rights issue.

--Nelson Mandela

We now undertake that we cannot rest while millions of our people suffer the pain and indignity of poverty in all its forms.

--Nelson Mandela

We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.

--Nelson Mandela

I am fundamentally an optimist.

--Nelson Mandela

Longer Version:

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.


I cannot overemphasise the value we place on a free, independent and outspoken press.

--Nelson Mandela

Resentment is like a glass of poison that a man drinks; then he sits down and waits for his enemy to die.

--Nelson Mandela

In prison, illusions can offer comfort.

--Nelson Mandela

Freedom is meaningless if people cannot put food in their stomachs, if they can have no shelter, if illiteracy and disease continue to dog them.

--Nelson Mandela

We should never forget those on whose shoulders we stand and those who paid the supreme price for freedom.

--Nelson Mandela

Strong convictions are the secret of surviving deprivation; your spirit can be full even when your stomach is empty.

--Nelson Mandela

As we judge others so are we judged by others. The suspicious will always be tormented by suspicion.

--Nelson Mandela

I appeal to the Youth and those on the ground: start talking to each other across divisions of race and political organizations.

--Nelson Mandela

It is my deepest conviction that the children should be seen and heard as our most treasured assets.

--Nelson Mandela

What has sustained me even in the most grim moments is the knowledge that I am a member of a tried and tested family which has triumphed over many difficulties.

--Nelson Mandela

No power on this earth can destroy the thirst for human dignity.

--Nelson Mandela

Political division, based on color, is entirely artificial; and when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another.

--Nelson Mandela

Racism is a blight on the human conscience.

--Nelson Mandela

Longer Version:

Racism is a blight on the human conscience. The idea that any people can be inferior to another, to the point where those who consider themselves superior define and treat the rest as subhuman, denies the humanity even of those who elevate themselves to the status of gods.


What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned? Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.

--Nelson Mandela

Although Verwoerd thought Africans were lower than animals, his death did not yield us any pleasure. Political assassination is not something I or the ANC ever supported. It is a primitive way of contending with an opponent.

--Nelson Mandela

Where people of goodwill get together and transcend their differences for the common good, peaceful and just solutions can be found even for those problems which seem most intractable.

--Nelson Mandela

There is nothing more important in life than giving. Tolerance is forged when people look beyond their own desires.

--Nelson Mandela

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.

--Nelson Mandela

We raise our voices in holy gladness to celebrate the victory of the risen Christ over the terrible forces of death.

--Nelson Mandela

Continuously, we have to fight to defeat the primitive tendency towards the glorification of arms, the adulation of force, born of the illusion that injustice can be perpetuated by the capacity to kill, or that disputes are necessarily best resolved by resort to violent means.

--Nelson Mandela

Of course we desire education and we think it is a good thing, but you don't have to have education in order to know that you want certain fundamental rights, you have got aspirations, you have got acclaims. It has nothing to do with education whatsoever.

--Nelson Mandela

Poetry cannot block a bullet or still a sjambok, but it can bear witness to brutality-thereby cultivating a flower in a graveyard.

--Nelson Mandela

It is not beyond our power to create a world in which all children have access to a good education.

--Nelson Mandela

We don't have to be victims of our past, that we can let go of our bitterness, and that all of us can achieve greatness.

--Nelson Mandela

The curious beauty of African music is that it uplifts even as it tells a sad tale. You may be poor, you may have only a ramshackle house, you may have lost your job, but that song gives you hope.

--Nelson Mandela

I was neglected by my family because I had disappointed them -- I'd run away from being forced into an arranged marriage, which was a big blow to them.

--Nelson Mandela

It is my greatest wish that the Children's Fund should continue to be a beacon of hope and light.

--Nelson Mandela

Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers.

--Nelson Mandela

Our continent must be allowed to do its own things, charting its course and destiny.

--Nelson Mandela

One of the most difficult things is not to change society -- but to change yourself.

--Nelson Mandela

It enables me to go to bed with an enriching feeling in my soul and the belief that I am changing myself.

--Nelson Mandela

We must nurture tolerance, collective wisdom, and democracy.

--Nelson Mandela

The anchor of all my dreams is the collective wisdom of mankind as a whole.

--Nelson Mandela

If wealth is a magnet, poverty is a kind of repellent.

--Nelson Mandela

We can build a society grounded on friendship and our common humanity -- a society founded on tolerance. That is the only road open to us.

--Nelson Mandela

A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.

--Nelson Mandela

Our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our nation.

--Nelson Mandela

Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place.

--Nelson Mandela

I looked into the vast dome of blue emptiness that stretched out above me in all directions and the illusion was still there, the size and speed, and what information they were sending to mother earth.

--Nelson Mandela

I understand that the legal position is under review in South Africa and that there will soon be a broader set of organizations to which donors can give and claim tax deductions.

--Nelson Mandela

Thinking is one of the most important weapons in dealing with problems.

--Nelson Mandela

The impression that you are a demigod worried me. I wanted to be like an ordinary human being with virtues and vices.

--Nelson Mandela

When you are behind bars with no hope of release, you need to find strength wherever you can. Personally, I found strength in Michael Jackson.

--Nelson Mandela

Know your enemy -- and learn about his favorite sport.

--Nelson Mandela

No matter what I suffered in my pursuit of freedom, I always took strength from the fact that I was fighting with and for my own people. Bram was a free man who fought against his own people to ensure the freedom of others.

--Nelson Mandela

I commend #AIESEC's continuing efforts to develop the #future #business #leadership of our countries.

--Nelson Mandela

Trade justice for the developing world and for this generation is a truly significant way for the developed countries to show commitment to bringing about an end to global poverty.

--Nelson Mandela

The history of struggle is rich with stories of heroes and heroines -- some of them leaders, some of them followers, all of them deserve to be remembered.

--Nelson Mandela

To a freedom fighter hope is what a lifebelt is to a swimmer -- a guarantee that one will keep afloat and free from danger.

--Nelson Mandela

I will use the rest of my life to help the poor overcome the problems confronting them -- poverty is the greatest challenge facing humanity. That is why I build schools; I want to free people from poverty and illiteracy.

--Nelson Mandela

You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself.

--Nelson Mandela

Through its imperialist system Britain brought about untold suffering of millions of people. And this is an historical fact. To be able to admit this would increase the respect, you know, which we have for British institutions.

--Nelson Mandela

Keep your friends close -- and your rivals even closer.

--Nelson Mandela

When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both.

--Nelson Mandela

The victory of democracy in South Africa is the common achievement of all humanity.

--Nelson Mandela

One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.

--Nelson Mandela

The authorities liked to say that we received a balanced diet; it was indeed balanced -- between the unpalatable and the inedible.

--Nelson Mandela

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great, you can be that generation.

--Nelson Mandela

Longer Version:

Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom. Of course the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.


The Liberty Bell is a very significant symbol for the entire democratic world.

--Nelson Mandela

There will be life after Mandela. On my last day I want to know that those who remain behind will say: 'The man who lies here has done his duty for his country and his people.'

--Nelson Mandela

The Church was as concerned with this world as the next: I saw that virtually all of the achievements of Africans seemed to have come about through the missionary work of the Church.

--Nelson Mandela

The importance of a high moral code, which is at the foundation of the Scout movement, cannot be stressed too highly.

--Nelson Mandela

My dream would be a multicultural society, one that is diverse and where every man, woman and child are treated equally. I dream of a world where all people of all races work together in harmony.

--Nelson Mandela

In a sick country every step to health is an insult to those who live on its sickness.

--Nelson Mandela

But the hard facts were that fifty years of non-violence had brought the African people nothing but more and more repressive legislation, and fewer and fewer rights.

--Nelson Mandela

We, the people of South Africa, declare for all our country and the world to know:
That South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white, and that no government can justly claim authority unless it is based on the will of the people.

--Nelson Mandela

The process of illusion and disillusionment is part of life and goes on endlessly.

--Nelson Mandela

An initiative was essentially led by civil society because the policy of the government was that Africans must not be taught to graze in pastures which were reserved for the main white group.

--Nelson Mandela

Prison itself is a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is above all a test of one's commitment.

--Nelson Mandela

Only armchair politicians are immune from committing mistakes. Errors are inherent in political action.

--Nelson Mandela

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