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WHAT OTHERS SAY: Nelson Mandela's legacy includes a wave of words

Tuesday, December 10, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST

Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who died Thursday at 95, inspired millions of people around the world with his deeds and his words.

Here’s a sample of his wisdom, compiled from his writings, speeches and other sources.

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  • “I was not a very bright student, I failed all of my subjects at Wits. I had to go to prison in order to learn how to be a good student.”
  • “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.”
  • "Long speeches, the shaking of fists, the banging of tables and strongly worded resolutions out of touch with the objective conditions do not bring about mass action and can do a great deal of harm to the organization and the struggle we serve.” (1953)
  • “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.” (1964)
  • “Social equality is the only basis of human happiness.” (1970)
  • “A good pen can also remind us of the happiest moments in our lives, bring noble ideas into our dens, our blood and our souls. It can turn tragedy into hope and victory.” (1980)
  • “Friends, comrades and fellow South Africans, I greet you all in the name of peace, democracy and freedom for all. 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.” (1990, after his release from prison.)
  • “Great anger and violence can never build a nation. We are striving to proceed in a manner and towards a result, which will ensure that all our people, both black and white, emerge as victors.” (1990)
  • “A critical, independent and investigative press is the lifeblood of any democracy. The press must be free from state interference. It must have the economic strength to stand up to the blandishments of government officials. It must have sufficient independence from the vested interests to be bold and inquiring without fear or favor. It must enjoy the protection of the constitution, so that it can protect our rights as citizens.” (1994)
  • “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.” ( 1995)
  • “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  • “It is never my custom to use words lightly. If twenty-seven years in prison have done anything to us, it was to use the silence of solitude to make us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.” (2000)
  • “Courageous people do not fear forgiving.”
  • “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
  • “Lead from the back — and let others believe they are in front.”
  • “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.”

Copyright The Kansas City Star. Reprinted with permission.

 


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