- I have dedicated my life 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 with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for, and to see realized. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.
speech at his trial in Pretoria, 20 April 1964, which he quoted on his release in Cape Town, 11 February 1990
- Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.
letter to Winnie Mandela from Robben Island, 1 February 1975
- 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.
speech in Cape Town, 11 February 1990
- Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
speech, Madison Park High School, Boston, 23 June 1990; reported in various forms
- Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
inaugural address as President of South Africa, 10 May 1994
- No one is born hating another person because of the colour 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.
Long Walk to Freedom (1994)
- True reconciliation does not consist in merely forgetting the past.
speech, 7 January 1996
- We close the century with most people still languishing in poverty, subjected to hunger, preventable disease, illiteracy and insufficient shelter.
at a ceremony at his former prison cell on Robben Island; in Observer 2 January 2000
- One of the things I learnt when I was negotiating was that until I changed myself I could not change others.
in Sunday Times 16 April 2000
- Sport has the power to change the world, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.
at the Laureus World Sports Awards in Monte Carlo, 25 May 2000, in Evening Standard 26 May 2000
- Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.
speech in Trafalgar Square, London, 3 February 2005