Nelson Mandela, whose 99th birthday falls Tuesday, became the first black president of South Africa in 1994, serving until 1999. He was referred to in his home country by his clan name Madiba and was a symbol of global peacemaking.
Born on July 18, 1918, in Mvezo, Transkei, South Africa, Mandela became actively involved in the anti-apartheid movement in his 20s. He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1942 and for the next 20 years, he spearheaded a campaign of peaceful, nonviolent defiance against the South African government and its racist policies.
When the ANC was outlawed in 1960, Mandela was forced to go underground. He was eventually arrested and charged with sabotage and attempting to violently overthrow the government; in 1964, he was sentenced to life in prison, where he spent 27 years.
When Madiba walked out of the front gate of the Victor Verster Prison in suburban Cape Town on Feb. 11, 1990, with his then-wife, Winnie, everybody in Africa rejoiced. Soon after Mandela’s release, a crowd of around 100,000 people gathered in the Grand Parade grounds outside Cape Town’s City Hall to hear him speak.
In 1993, Mandela and the then South African President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to dismantle the country’s apartheid system.
In his Nobel address Dec. 10, 1993 in Oslo, Norway, Mandela said: “We do not believe that this Nobel Peace Prize is intended as a commendation for matters that have happened and passed.
We hear the voices which say that it is an appeal from all those, throughout the universe, who sought an end to the system of apartheid.”
To celebrate Mandela’s 99th birth anniversary, here are 10 of his inspirational quotes about education, leadership and failure.
1. Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
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. It always seems impossible until it’s done.
4. After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.
5. Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
9. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.
10. Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.