90 Nelson Mandela Quotes That Are Inspirational & Powerful

Nelson Mandela quote

In this post, we’ll read the best Nelson Mandela quotes who was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, political leader, and philanthropist.

Nelson Mandela (1918–2013) became the first black president of South Africa after the country’s first democratic elections from 1994 to 1999.

He became involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his early twenties and joined the African National Congress (ANC) playing a key role in organizing nonviolent protests and resistance against the regime, which enforced racial segregation and discrimination against the black majority.

In 1962, Mandela was arrested and charged with sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government and was sentenced to life imprisonment and spent 27 years in prison. He was finally released in 1990 and he immediately resumed his leadership role in the ANC and fought for democracy in South Africa.

His imprisonment and his passion for freedom made him a symbol of the anti-apartheid struggle and resistance to injustice.

Let’s read some of the best Nelson Mandela quotes on democracy, life, freedom and more.

Inspirational Nelson Mandela Quotes

“It always seems impossible until it's done.” - Nelson Mandela

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

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

3. “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”

4. “Only free men can negotiate. A prisoner cannot enter into contracts.”

5. “To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

6. “A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”

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

8. “Forget the past.”

9. “They can take everything from me except my mind and heart.”

10. “If you are poor, you are not likely to live long.”

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

12. “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

13. “Fools multiply when wise men are silent.”

14. “Losing a sense of time is an easy way to lose one’s grip and even one’s sanity.”

15. “It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Life

Nelson Mandela Quote on Life

1. “Live life as though nobody is watching, and express yourself as though everyone is listening.”

2. “There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

3. “Life has a way of forcing decisions on those who vacillate.”

4. “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.”

5. “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

6. “Prison life, fortunately, I spent a lot of years, about 18 years with other prisoners, and, as I say, they enriched your soul.”

7. “Sometimes, I feel like one who is on the sidelines, who has missed life itself.”

8. “Even if you have a terminal disease, you don’t have to sit down and mope. Enjoy life and challenge the illness that you have.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Freedom

Nelson Mandela Quote on Freedom

1. “There is no such thing as part freedom.”

2. “Let freedom reign. The sun never set on so glorious a human achievement.”

3. “A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred.”

4. “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

5. “Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual.”

6. “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.”

7. “There is no easy walk to freedom anywhere, and many of us will have to pass through the valley of the shadow of death again and again before we reach the mountaintop of our desires.”

8. “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.”

9. “Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.”

10. “After one has been in prison, it is the small things that one appreciates: being able to take a walk whenever one wants, going into a shop and buying a newspaper, speaking or choosing to remain silent. The simple act of being able to control one’s person.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Leadership

Nelson Mandela Quote on Leadership

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

2. “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.”

3. “In countries where innocent people are dying, the leaders are following their blood rather than their brains.”

4. “I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances.”

5. “There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way.”

6. “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.”

7. “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”

8. “Quitting is leading too.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Success

Nelson Mandela Quote on Success

1. “Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.”

2. “It is not where you start but how high you aim that matters for success.”

3. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

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

5. “I never lose. I either win or learn.”

6. “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up.”

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

8. “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice.”

9. “I have retired, but if there’s anything that would kill me it is to wake up in the morning not knowing what to do.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Change

Nelson Mandela Quote on Change

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

2. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.”

3. “It was a useful reminder that all men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and that if their heart is touched, they are capable of changing.”

4. “Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them.”

5. “It is in the character of growth that we should learn from both pleasant and unpleasant experiences.”

6. “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

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

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Courage & Forgiveness

Nelson Mandela Quote on Courage and Forgiveness

1. “Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”

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. “Let your courage rise with danger.”

4. “You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.”

5. “Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?”

6. “Does anybody really think that they didn’t get what they had because they didn’t have the talent or the strength or the endurance or the commitment?”

7. “I learned that to humiliate another person is to make him suffer an unnecessarily cruel fate. Even as a boy, I defeated my opponents without dishonoring them.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Democracy & Politics

Nelson Mandela Quote on Politics

1. “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

2. “Sabotage did not involve loss of life, and it offered the best hope for future race relations. Bitterness would be kept to a minimum and, if the policy bore fruit, democratic government could become a reality.”

3. “Democracy meant all men were to be heard, and a decision was taken together as a people. Majority rule was a foreign notion. A minority was not to be crushed by a majority.”

4. “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.”

5. “If there is a country that has committed unspeakable atrocities in the world, it is the United States of America.”

6. “Africans require, want, the franchise on the basis of one man one vote. They want political independence.”

7. “Unlike some politicians, I can admit to a mistake.”

8. “If the United States of America or Britain is having elections, they don’t ask for observers from Africa or from Asia. But when we have elections, they want observers.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Apartheid

Nelson Mandela Quote on Apartheid

1. “I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”

2. “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

3. “I should tie myself to no particular system of society other than of socialism.”

4. “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.”

5. “We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.”

6. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry, and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils.”

7. “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.”

Nelson Mandela Quotes on Education & Children

Nelson Mandela Quote on Education

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

2. “No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”

3. “Without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they will face. So it’s very important to give children education and explain that they should play a role for their country.”

4. “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”

5. “Give a child love, laughter and peace, not AIDS.”

6. “We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.”

7. “The education I received was a British education, in which British ideas, British culture, British institutions, were automatically assumed to be superior. There was no such thing as African culture.”

These Nelson Mandela quotes reflect his unwavering commitment to justice, freedom, and democracy which made him a beloved leader both in South Africa and globally.

He is a symbol of hope and struggle for freedom, equality, and human rights. He received numerous awards and honors for his efforts, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

Which of these Nelson Mandela quotes left an impact on you?

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