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Nelson Mandela: In His Own Words

As the world mourns Nelson Mandela, who will be laid to rest this Sunday, his own words serve as a powerful testimony to his life and legacy.

As the world mourns Nelson Mandela, who will be laid to rest this Sunday, his own words serve as a powerful testimony to his life and legacy. Below are excerpts from some of his own writings and speeches:

“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.” – Mandela’s statement to the Supreme Court of South Africa, facing charges of sabotage, April 1964

“My dearest Winnie, Your beautiful photo still stands about two feet above my left shoulder as I write this note. I dust it carefully every morning, for to do so gives me the pleasant feeling that I’m caressing you as in the old days. I even touch your nose with mine to recapture the electric current that used to flush through my blood whenever I did so. Nolitha stands on the table directly opposite me. How can my spirits ever be down when I enjoy the fond attentions of such wonderful ladies?” – Letter to his wife Winnie during his imprisonment, April 1976

“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.” – From Mandela’s address after his release from prison, delivered in Cape Town, South Africa on February 11, 1990

Watch Mandela’s mini biography:

“Today, all of us do, by our presence here, and by our celebrations in other parts of our country and the world, confer glory and hope to newborn liberty. Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud. Our daily deeds as ordinary South Africans must produce an actual South African reality that will reinforce humanity’s belief in justice, strengthen its confidence in the nobility of the human soul and sustain all our hopes for a glorious life for all.” – From Mandela’s statement to the President of the African National Congress at his Presidential Inauguration, May 1994

“Fellow citizens, I am greatly honoured to address you at the end of a remarkable year in the history of our nation and on the eve of a new year that is full of hope. 1994 will go down in history as an epoch-making year for the South African people, and indeed, for humanity as a whole. We are at the close of a year which saw the defeat of the apartheid system against which the entire world was united. Transparency and accountability have become norms in our new life. A national consensus has been forged on the policy to bring a better life for all South Africans.” – President Mandela’s New Year’s Day message to South Africans, December 30, 1994

EXPLORE NELSON MANDELA VIDEO LIBRARY

“Though the challenges of the present time for our country, our continent and the world, are greater than those we have already overcome, we face the future with confidence. We do so because, despite the difficulties and the tensions that confront us, there is in all of us the capacity to touch one another’s hearts across oceans and continents. The award with which you honour me today is an expression of the common humanity that binds us one person to another, nation to nation, and people of the North to people of the South. I receive it with pride, as a symbol of partnership for peace, prosperity and equity as we enter the new millennium.” – Address by President Mandela on receiving the Congressional Gold Medal in the United States, September 1998

Watch ‘Mandela: Working Towards Freedom’:

“We are greatly honoured to join the millions around the globe congratulating you on taking office as the President of the United States of America. We believe that we are witnessing something truly historic not only in the political annals of your great nation, the United States of America, but of the world… We are in some ways reminded today of the excitement and enthusiasm in our own country at the time of our transition to democracy. People, not only in our country but around the world, were inspired to believe that through common human effort injustice can be overcome and that together a better life for all can be achieved. Your Presidency brings hope of new beginnings in the relations between nations, that the challenges we all face, be they economic, the environment, or in combating poverty or the search for peace, will be addressed with a new spirit of openness and accommodation.” – Mandela’s message at the Inauguration of President Obama, January 20, 2009

“I sincerely thank you for your support for Mandela Day. For all those who continue to give service in their own way, I thank you. We each, every one of us, can make an imprint.” – Mandela’s message in honor of the celebration of Mandela Day in the USA, July 2009