I woke up to the news that Nelson Mandela would have turned 100 today. In these turbulent times when faith in our leaders is steadily fading away, Mandela remains one of the most remarkable examples of courage and change. His life and career clearly show that leaders can work to address the needs of the most vulnerable and the least likely to be heard.
Inspired by the news, I remembered that I got as a present one of the books that deal with his life – Conversations with Myself. The book is a remarkable collection of the personal letters of Mandela which gives an unprecedented insight into his life. Many of the letters were written while he was imprisoned but the book also gives the readers access to the private archive of Mandela – notes that he doodled during meetings, journals while he was in exile, and even recorded personal conversations with his friends. As Barack Obama says in his foreword for the book:
Conversations with Myself does the world an extraordinary service in giving us that picture of Mandela the man.
The book is not an easy one to read. You need to know quite a lot of historical details in order to be able to fully comprehend the story of Mandela. To ease the reader, the book provides quite comprehensive appendixes that would make things clearer. The good thing is that there is no need for you to read the book in its entirety. I often find myself digging into Mandela’s personal letters to find some inspiration for the things that happen in my life.
In order to commemorate Nelson Mandela’s centenary, I decided to put this small collection of my favourite quotes of the iconic figure.
“There is a universal respect and even admiration for those who are humble and simple by nature, and who have absolute confidence in all human beings irrespective of their social status.”
“I love playing and chatting with children…feeding and putting them to bed with a little story, and being away from the family has troubled me throughout my…life. i like relaxing at the house, reading quietly, taking in the sweet smell that comes from the pots, sitting around a table with the family and taking out my wife and children. when you can no longer enjoy these simple pleasures something valuable is taken away from your life and you feel it in your daily work.”
“Success in politics demands that you must take your people into confidence about your views and state them very clearly, very politely, very calmly, but nevertheless, state them openly.”
“I shall stick to our vow: never, never under any circumstances, to say anything unbecoming of the other…The trouble, of course, is that most successful men are prone to some form of vanity. There comes a stage in their lives when they consider it permissible to be egotistic and to brag to the public at large about their unique achievements.”
“In judging our progress as individual we tend to concentrate on external factors such as one’s social position, influence and popularity, wealth and standard of education. These are, of course, important in measuring one’s success in material matters and it is perfectly understandable if many people exert themselves mainly to achieve all these. But internal factors may be even more crucial in assessing one’s development as a human being. Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others – qualites which are within reach of every soul – are the foundation of one’s spiritual life.”
Do you have any public figures that you look up to?
Talk to you soon.