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Tribute to Nelson Mandela

December 10, 2013

6th December, 2013, the day the world woke up to the news of the passing of Nelson Mandela, one of the world's most courageous leaders. South Africa, in fact the whole world will for the next few days be saying goodbye to a great human being and an incredible inspiration. It is strange to be feeling this loss considering the Statesman died at the fulfilling age of 95 years, and even though there was every sign that this time he might not make it, I don’t believe there was anyone who was quite prepared for his death. I guess this is what happens when someone devotes his life to the well being of the rest of humanity, as opposed to forcing others to devote their lives for you, as we see with so many of our leaders (whether in politics or in business) in this continent today. It is hard to forget the one man who did what no other African leader has ever done; ascending into power, then willingly stepping down after only one term in leadership. This one action in itself was a clear indication that he was a SELFLESS leader, wanting only what was best for his country and its people, and not what would have benefitted him only as an individual. In the end, he spearheaded the most critical of all revolutionary pivots, he inspired his nation "to forgive but not forget." Like someone correctly said, there will be lots of reminders in the next few weeks of the Late Mandela's historic successes. We should, and we will collectively celebrate not just what he achieved, but also how and why he achieved it. In helping remind us these things, I have dedicated my article this week to a collection of quotes he said on different occasions. This will be my way of remembering this great icon. In total, they are 95 quotes, each symbolizing every year God gifted the earth with the life of this man. 1. "It always seems impossible until it’s done." - Nelson Mandela 2. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” - Nelson Mandela 3. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” - Nelson Mandela 4. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” - Nelson Mandela 5. “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.” - Nelson Mandela 6. "Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all." - Nelson Mandela 7. “A good head and good heart are always a formidable combination. But when you add to that a literate tongue or pen, then you have something very special.” - Nelson Mandela 8. "After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." - Nelson Mandela 9. "Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished" - Nelson Mandela 10. "When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat." - Nelson Mandela 11. "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela 12. "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." - Nelson Mandela 13. “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.” - Nelson Mandela 14. “Lead from the back - and let others believe they are in front.” - Nelson Mandela 15. “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.” - Nelson Mandela 16. “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” - Nelson Mandela 17. "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." - Nelson Mandela 18. “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.” - Nelson Mandela 19. "There is no such thing as part freedom" - Nelson Mandela 20. "Only free men can negotiate; prisoners cannot enter into contracts. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated." - Nelson Mandela 21. “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.” ― Nelson Mandela 22. When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” ― Nelson Mandela 23. “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” ― Nelson Mandela 24. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” ― Nelson Mandela 25. “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.” ― Nelson Mandela 26. “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.” ― Nelson Mandela 27. “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. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.” ― Nelson Mandela 28. “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.” ― Nelson Mandela 29. “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” ― Nelson Mandela 30. “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.” ― Nelson Mandela 31. “As I have said, the first thing is to be honest with yourself. You can never have an impact on society if you have not changed yourself... Great peacemakers are all people of integrity, of honesty, but humility.” ― Nelson Mandela 32. “Where you stand depends on where you sit.” ― Nelson Mandela 33. “One of the things I learned when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself, I could not change others.” ― Nelson Mandela 34. “As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” ― Nelson Mandela 35. “It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.” ― Nelson Mandela 36. “Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings" - Nelson Mandela 37. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” ― Nelson Mandela 38. “We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?” ― Nelson Mandela 39. “A winner is a dreamer who never gives up” ― Nelson Mandela 40. “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.” ― Nelson Mandela 41. “In my country we go to prison first and then become President. ” ― Nelson Mandela 42. “You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.” ― Nelson Mandela 43. “One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen.” ― Nelson Mandela 44. “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children.” ― Nelson Mandela 45. “Know your enemy — and learn about his favorite sport.” ― Nelson Mandela 46. “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” ― Nelson Mandela 47. “Quitting is leading too.” ― Nelson Mandela 48. “Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all. Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.” ― Nelson Mandela 49. “It is not where you start but how high you aim that matters for success.” ― Nelson Mandela 50. “Keep your friends close — and your rivals even closer.” ― Nelson Mandela 51. “We must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.” ― Nelson Mandela 52. “I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.” ― Nelson Mandela 53. "It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.” ― Nelson Mandela 54. “Tread softly; Breathe peacefully; Laugh hysterically.” ― Nelson Mandela 55. “I have never cared very much for personal prizes. A person does not become a freedom fighter in the hope of winning awards.” ― Nelson Mandela 56. “We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.” ― Nelson Mandela 57. “I am not an optimist, but a great believer of hope.” ― Nelson Mandela 58. “I love playing and chatting with children...feeding and putting them to bed with a little story, and being away from the family has troubled me throughout my life. I like relaxing at the house, reading quietly, taking in the sweet smell that comes from the pots, sitting around a table with the family and taking out my wife and children. when you can no longer enjoy these simple pleasures something valuable is taken away from your life and you feel it in your daily work.” ― Nelson Mandela 59. “There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status.” ― Nelson Mandela 60. “Peace is the greatest weapon for development that any person can have.” ― Nelson Mandela 61. “No single person can liberate a country. You can only liberate a country if you act as a collective.” ― Nelson Mandela 62. “There are few misfortunes in this world that you cannot turn into a personal triumph if you have the iron will and the necessary skill.” ― Nelson Mandela 63. “Once a person is determined to help themselves, there is nothing that can stop them.” ― Nelson Mandela 64. “Live life as though nobody is watching, and express yourself as though everyone is listening.” ― Nelson Mandela 65. “Success in politics demands that you must take your people into confidence about your views and state them very clearly, very politely, very calmly, but nevertheless, state them openly.” ― Nelson Mandela 66. “Money wont create success, the freedom to make it will” ― Nelson Mandela 67. “I shall stick to our vow: never, never under any circumstances, to say anything unbecoming of the other...The trouble, of course, is that most successful men are prone to some form of vanity. There comes a stage in their lives when they consider it permissible to be egotistic and to brag to the public at large about their unique achievements.” ― Nelson Mandela 68. “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.” ― Nelson Mandela 69. “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 70. “In some ways, it is easier to be a dissident, for then one is without responsibility.” ― Nelson Mandela 71. “A freedom fighter learns the hard way that it is the oppressor who defines the nature of the struggle, and the oppressed is often left no recourse but to use methods that mirror those of the oppressor. At a point, one can only fight fire with fire” ― Nelson Mandela 72. "We are not anti-white, we are against white supremacy … we have condemned racialism no matter by whom it is professed." - Nelson Mandela 73. "Action without vision is only passing time; vision without action is merely day dreaming but vision with action can change the world" - Nelson Mandela 74. "Few things make the life of a parent more rewarding and sweet as successful children" - Nelson Mandela 75. "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 76. "I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man" - Nelson Mandela 77. "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?" - Nelson Mandela 78. "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" - Nelson Mandela 79. "If there are dreams about a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to their goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness" - Nelson Mandela 80. "To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity" - Nelson Mandela 81. "Any man or institution that tries to rob me of my dignity will lose" - Nelson Mandela 82. "Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace" - Nelson Mandela 83. "No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated" - Nelson Mandela 84. "Unlike some politicians, I can admit to a mistake" - Nelson Mandela 85. "We can't afford to be killing one another" - Nelson Mandela 86. "Leaders in all spheres who are living with HIV should be encouraged, not coerced, to lead by example and disclose their HIV status" - Nelson Mandela 87. "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 88. "I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances" - Nelson Mandela 89. "It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea" - Nelson Mandela 90. "Intervention only works when the people concerned seem to be keen for peace" - Nelson Mandela 91. "Give a child love, laughter and peace, not AIDS" - Nelson Mandela 92. "Forget the past" - Nelson Mandela 93. "I made a mistake by being ejected from the presidency. Next time, I will choose a Cabinet which will allow me to be life President" - Nelson Mandela 94. “In countries where innocent people are dying, the leaders are following their blood rather than their brains” Nelson Mandela 95. "…the only [other] thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, Rolihlahla literally means 'pulling the branch of a tree', but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be 'troublemaker" - Nelson Mandela As the world stands still for him, I leave you all with one question, who in this continent, in this generation and in this lifetime will inspire the world like Mandela? Leaders wanted! May you rest in peace Tata Madiba. Yes you may be physically gone from us, but your spirit will continue living on.

 

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 8th December, 2013, under my weekly column "Thoughts in Words"

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