15 of the Most Inspirational and Uplifting Nelson Mandela Quotes

To celebrate the extraordinary life of Nelson Mandela, the South African politician and champion of anti-apartheid, here is a collection of his most uplifting words.

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Nelson Mandela
Photo: Alessia Pierdomenico/Shutterstock

“Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.”

“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.”

“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.”

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Nelson Mandela on banknote
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“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

“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.”

“We must use time wisely and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right.”

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Nelson Mandela on TIME Magazine
Photo: Popartic/Shutterstock

“It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

“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.”

“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.”

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Nelson Mandela statue
Photo: Shutterstock

“When people are determined, they can overcome anything.”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“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.”

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Nelson Mandela tribute
Photo: 360b/Shutterstock

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“There are so many men and women who hold no distinctive positions but whose contribution towards the development of society has been enormous.”

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

Looking for more words of wisdom? Check out these Downton Abbey quotes.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest