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Nelson Mandela’s Speech

The Healing Light Institute of Spirituality

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”


This brilliant statement was probably not originally Nelson Mandela’s

Here’s a pot-pourri of responses from interested people:

* The above speech by Nelson Mandela was orignally written by Marianne Williamson who is the author of other similar material.

* The above speech by Nelson Mandela [ED: See footnote regarding speech origins] indicates a man who over nearly 40 years in prison, thought deeply, read much and tried his best to understand human nature. In the course of that journey he developed a firm belief in God and by doing so, learned love for man followed by sensitivity, compassion and an attempt at understanding all as well as the roles they played in his life.

If we actually look at some of the things he talks about. For instance he clearly says, our deepest fears is that we are too powerful and not nearly as inadequate as we profess. For many of us this is a contradiction, simply because for most of us our greatest fear is that we are inadequate, helpless and of no consequence in the grand scheme of life. That is our negativity which is self-destructive. He goes on to talk about the light. The light he refers to comes from the soul within, that all of us have. He specifically refers to love and hope leading us forward towards ever continuing growth and understanding of ourselves and accordingly, others around us. For without hope, life is darkness. Darkness is fear and bigotry, the road to self-destruction and denial of all our human virtues. If severe enough, it leads to our soul going to sleep for self protection.

Each of us on this earth are unique for we are a combination of the divine spark that ignites our soul and the growth of character due to our lifestyle and time of existence. Most of us are born complete and basically healthy. We do not look the same, behave the same or think exactly the same because we are unique. Depending on the lifestyle we lead, we develop into a creature of great hope and growth on one hand, positive and virile in character. On the other hand, if too much darkness is present in our earlier existence, we stumble forward with lack of hope and integrity and we therefore spend a lifetime in ever-growing fear due to the negativity and lack of hope within.

God created the divine spark which is the soul of man and in doing so, he gave us freewill so that we may grow and be enlightened. The sole requirement of each of us as a human being in this life is therefore to grow our character, which should result in ever-increasing happiness and help us towards inner peace and fulfilment. The journey to that point is sometimes hard and even very distressing and there can be much suffering for some. But during our journey, each of us must fulfil our destiny, often unknown to us in the early part of life but becoming more apparent as the journey progresses. We, man, can reach for the stars in our greatness, and the achievements are many in life. But these can only happen when we are in harmony with our soul and walk in our own light of hope, learning to understand the value of integrity and honesty of purpose. The journey can be a lonely one at times for no-one but we ourselves can make that journey. We must therefore strive to believe in the power that is manifested within us, by that spark which we call life. We must believe that we are greater than we are at any point in time and that purity of thought is translated into progress. Then our journey will create a truer being of loving grace and greatness. All life functions on the basis of evolution and the inevitable consequences of this is that only those of us who develop our maximum potential will know the true meaning of peace and happiness and being at one with our soul, and therefore God.

Nelson Mandela struggled hard to understand the meaning of life and the great truth he discovered was that time itself heals. It does create new dimensions however, both in man’s thinking as well as development in society’s growth. He truly understands too that not all will make the journey or would even want to make the journey for human aspiration is a self perception of one’s own inspirations and image. But he truly understood that the light of God’s path brought forth much in the way of inner peace and sanctuary and the total power of learning to be oneself. He therefore challenges each and every one of us who reads his message to aim for the stars, to create the need within us to understand ourselves, then each other, then the importance of nature upon us as a living creature upon a living planet.

He gave the world a new dimension of understanding across the divide between black and white, across cultures and by being a living embodiment of his firm belief in God, and the goodness and ability of mankind. He has in the short time that he has been free, given much to many people. But if he just teaches us one simple fact, that if we remove our fears which are mainly unfounded, as well as the negative parts of our nature, we will liberate ourselves, allowing the abilities we have within us grow and flourish, therefore giving us a chance to find out just how much power we have in terms of personal ability, to build our own place in the season of our being.

We as an individual within the species of mankind, must realise that we are our brother’s keeper and have a duty to ourselves to help others grow and flourish and by doing so, we emulate the power within that truly makes us man the powerful.

* The quote in the above article of yours is a splendid one, and thank you for sharing it.

Unfortunately, it was not Nelson Mandela who wrote or spoke it. I thought you might be interested in knowing where it really came from. It is widely misattributed on the Web and elsewhere to Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inaugural address. A quick search through that very speech (also full of splendid quotable prose) on the ANC’s official web site confirms that the quotation isn’t there (URL below). Nor is it to be found in any of his other published speeches.

The actual author of the quotation is Marianne Williamson. To be precise, it is from her 1992 book, “Return to Love” (hardcover p. 165, paperback pp. 190-191): http://www.marianne.com/index.php

Just to be extra sure that Mandela never quoted it in another speech, I wrote to the ANC (info[at]anc.org.za) asking about it, and their representative Duncan Harford confirmed my suspicions:

Subject: Re: Our Deepest Fear

Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2002

Hello John

We are aware that these words have for some years now been attributed to Nelson Mandela on the internet. We do not know how this happened

These words appear neither in the May 9, 1994 inaugural speech  (http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mandela/1994/inaugct.html), nor the May 10, 1994 inaugural speech(http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mandela/1994/inaugpta.html), nor any of the other speeches, statements and writings by Mr. Mandela (http://www.anc.org.za/ancdocs/history/mandela/).

Regards Duncan

John Finlayson wrote:


I appreciate the time you took to mention my research into the origin of this quote.

However, you seem to have misunderstood the statement from the ANC.  Your article still asserts that Mr. Mandela used these words in a speech (quoting Williamson). But they are telling us that he did not. The entire story about Mandela uttering these words is an urban legend.




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  4. While the ANC may have no record of Mandela using Williamson’s poem, I can personally vouch that he absolutely did. I watched his inauguration live on TV with my best friend and we both heard it – and were blown away by it. I live in Cape Town, South Africa – and everyone was talking about that poem afterwards. It was years before I was able to track it to Williamson. Such an exquisite poem!

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