a long walk to freedom nelson mandela

LONG WALK TO FREEDOM BY NELSON MANDELA SUMMARY REVIEW AND QUOTES

1. DON’T EVER GIVE UP

Reading Nelson Mandela’s biography, Long Walk To Freedom, got me inspired and ashamed at the same time. This man has spent his entire life fighting for his vision: a free and democratic South Africa. Can you imagine how hard and difficult might be to be twenty-seven years in prison while not losing faith that, someday, your goal will become reality? What struck me the most about Mandela was exactly that: his unshakable focus, his unwillingness to give up and surrender to the injustice of apartheid and racism. All my little troubles and every day preoccupations seemed like dust in the wind if compared to what he, and an entire nation, had to go through to achieve freedom.

“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.”

2. PRACTICE MAKES THE MASTER

“In cross-country competition, training counted more than intrinsic ability, and I could compensate for a lack of natural aptitude with diligence and discipline. I applied this in everything I did.

3. CONSISTENTLY CHALLENGE YOUR BELIEFS

“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. – I now believed I was seeing things as they were. That too of course, was an illusion. I saw how my own people had remained in one place, while I had moved on and seen new worlds and gained new ideas. If I had not realized it before, I knew that I was right not to have returned to the Transkei after Fort Hare. If I had returned, my political evolution would have been stunted.”

4. COMMIT YOURSELF TO LIFELONG LEARNING

“Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farmworkers can become the president of a great nation. It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another.”

5. LOVE COMES MORE NATURALLY TO THE HUMAN HEART THAN ITS OPPOSITE

“All men, even the most seemingly cold-blooded, have a core of decency, and that if their hearts are touched, they are capable of changing. Ultimately, Badenhorst (a prison guard) was not evil; his inhumanity had been foisted upon him by an inhuman system. He behaved like a brute because he was rewarded for brutish behaviour. – People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.  

6. IDEAS CAN CHANGE THE WORLD

 

During the Rivonia trial Mandela understood that he could continue to fight for the freedom of his country even in prison. He was the symbol of ideals of equality and democracy and could influence the public opinion of the justness of his endeavour.

I was the symbol of justice in the court of the oppressor, the representative of the great ideals of freedom, fairness and democracy in a society that dishonoured those virtues. I realized then and there that I could carry on the fight even within the fortress of the enemy.”

7. HISTORY IS MADE BY ORDINARY MEN

All throughout Nelson Mandela’s biography you get a sense of his humanity. Too often we think that to achieve greatness we must become heroes, but that couldn’t be more far from the truth. When we idolize successful people we are not able to see and understand what caused their success in the first place. By reading biography of great achievers you will rediscover their human side; they too feel negative emotions but they act in spite of them.

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances. – She (his wife Winnie) married a man who soon left her; that man became a myth; and then that myth returned home and proved to be just a man after all. – I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear myself more times than I can remember, but I hid it behind a mask of boldness. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

8. LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND NOT TO REPLY

Mandela learned many of his political skills from his mentor, chief Jogintamba the Thembu regent, to which he was entrusted after his father death. The young Nelson often watched him during his political meetings in which the regent would listen to all parts in order to form consensus among different opinions.

“As a leader, I have always followed the principles I first saw demonstrated by the regent at the Great Place (The regent’s residence). I have always endeavoured to listen to what each and every person in a discussion had to say before venturing my own opinion.”

9. LEADERS LEAD

During the late years of his imprisonment Mandela secretly started to negotiate with the government. He saw that the time was right to start talking with the enemy and he decided to take the initiative. There was no space for an internal discussion with his political organization, the African National Congress, a short window of opportunity for conversation had opened before a bloody internal war started within the various factions.

“There are times when a leader must move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way.”

10. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR LIFE

“Just as we told the people what we would do, I felt we must also tell them what we could not do. Many people felt life would change overnight after a free and democratic election, but that would be far from the case. Often, I said to the crowds, ‘Do not expect to be driving a Mercedes the day after the election or swimming in your own backyard pool.’ I told our supporters, ‘Life will not change dramatically, except that you will have increased your self-esteem and become a citizen in your own land. You must have patience. You might have to wait five years for results to show.’ I challenged them; I did not patronize them: ‘If you want better things, you must work hard. We cannot do it all for you; you must do it for yourselves.’ ”

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