Nelson Mandela, the one-time revolutionary who ushered South Africa out of Apartheid, died on Thursday at the age of 95. The beloved leader and freedom fighter will doubtless inspire pages of eulogies even with just part of his resume — South Africa's first democratically elected president, Nobel Peace Prize winner, philanthropist. But it is the overarching purpose of his long, storied life that will transcend today's obituaries, galvanizing and teaching generations to come.
After spending 27 years in brutal, hard-labor prisons, Mandela emerged not weighed down with vengeance, but inspired by the spirit of forgiveness. And it was this thoughtful and mature Mandela who would lead South Africa into democracy, after the abolition of Apartheid in the early 1990s. At the end of his term in 1999, instead of launching a political personality cult from his popular presidency, Mandela opted to step down, thereby signaling that South Africa should be a government of the people rather than of a single leader. Since then, the country has elected three presidents.
Madiba — the Xhosa clan name by which Mandela was often referred — was one of the world's greatest pupils, always eager to learn and to pass on his lessons. In honor of his life and legacy, here is a collection of Mandela's most stirring thoughts on hate, love, freedom, and leadership along with photos from his honorable life.
"No one is born hating another person because of the color 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."
A young Nelson Mandela, circa 1937. (African National Congress)
"If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner."
Mandela, pictured in the 1950s, adopts a boxing pose. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
"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."
Mandela in the early '60s before he was sentenced to life imprisonment for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He was sentenced in June 1964 during the Rivonia trials. (REUTERS)
"It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones."
A poster commemorating Mandela's 70th birthday. The activist may have spent this seminal birthday behind bars, but a massive music concert was staged in London in his honor and broadcast in 67 countries to an audience of more than 600 million. (REUTERS/Radu Sigheti)
"As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison."
Mandela and his then-wife Winnie, walk hand-in-hand upon his release from Victor prison, Cape Town, South Africa on Feb. 11, 1990. (AP Photo)
"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
Mandela receives an honorary degree on July 28, 1991, from the University of Carabobo in Valencia, Venezuela. (AP Photo/Diego Giudice)
On following your dreams
"It always seems impossible until it's done."
The African National Congress leader holds up his Nobel Peace Prize, which he won in 1993 along with South African president F.W. de Klerk (right) for their efforts in ending Apartheid. (REUTERS)
"Lead from the back‚ and let others believe they are in front."
Outgoing President Mandela offers his seat to President-elect Thabo Mbeki (right) following his last appearance in parliament on June 14, 1999. (REUTERS)
On moving on
"For to be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."
Mandela looks around the Robben Island prison cell he once occupied, during a 1994 visit on the anniversary of his release. (REUTERS/Patrick de Noirmont)
"The world is truly round and seems to start and end with those we love. I am not nervous of love for love is very inspiring. To be in love is an experience that every man must go through. One should be so grateful at being involved in such an experience. I am in love with a remarkable lady. She has changed my life. Holding Graca's hand is the one thing I love most in the world."
Mandela and his second wife, Graca Machel, celebrate underneath a shower of confetti at a banquet honoring the anti-Apartheid hero's 85th birthday on July 19, 2003. (REUTERS/POOL/ Themba)
"I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one's head pointed toward the sun, one's feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death."
Mandela laughs while chatting with Britain's then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2008. (REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)
On his end
"On my last day I want to know that those who remain behind will say: The man who lies here has done his duty for his country and his people."
Mandela enthralls a crowd of more than 200,000 people in Boston, Mass., in June 1990. (AP Photo/David Longstreth)