Mandela’s actions, as well as his words, have inspired and indeed changed the lives of many.
Here are our top 10 favourite quotes among Mandela’s many eloquent messages about the world’s most important asset: its children.
1. “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
2. “History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children.”
3. “One way that we can build a better future for children is by empowering them through allowing them to speak up for themselves…The rights of children must, importantly, include the right to be themselves and to talk for themselves.”
4. “While children need to be guided they also have an entrenched right to be whatever they want to be… they can achieve this only if they are given the space to dream and live out their dreams.”
5. “It always gives me great pleasure to be surrounded by the beautiful children of our land. Whenever I am with the energetic young people … I feel like a recharged battery, confident that our country can look forward to great things.”
6. “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.”
7. “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
8. “Together as a nation, we have the obligation to put sunshine into the hearts of our little ones. They are our precious possessions. They deserve what happiness life can offer.”
9. “Few things make the life of a parent more rewarding and sweet as successful children.”
10. “We owe our children – the most vulnerable citizens in any society – a life free from violence and fear.”
Some years ago, Action Against Hunger honoured Mandela with our Humanitarian Award. We could think of no individual who better personified the mission we work towards every day, saving the lives of malnourished children and unlocking their future potential.
For too many people, the issue of hunger is important but they do nothing about it because it seems too large or complex. As usual, Mandela had a way of conceptualizing this issue in simple terms with a moral imperative that would be hard for anyone to ignore. Here’s what he said when he accepted our award. “Hunger is an aberration of the civilized world. It is the result of civil wars, oppressive governments and famines of biblical proportions. Families are torn asunder by the question of who will eat.”
“As global citizens, we must free children from the nightmare of poverty and abuse and deprivation,” he continued. “We must protect parents from the horrifying dilemma of choosing who will live. Hunger is a basic need that must be met before anyone can escape the depths of ignorance, before any society can stand without aid, but more importantly, before any child’s body can survive the onslaught of disease such as the scourges of HIV, TB, and malaria.”
We can think of no better way to honour Mandela’s legacy than by continuing the fight to make childhood deaths from malnutrition history. Thanks to the development of new, affordable treatment tools, this is a battle we can win and we can do it in our lifetime. Now, wouldn’t that be a fitting tribute to this great man.
Thank you, Nelson Mandela. Your profound and positive influence on the world will never be forgotten.
Editor’s Note: Excerpts of this piece first appeared on The Huffington Post Impact Blog on December 6, 2013.