Nelson Mandela (1918-present: aged 94) was the first black President of South Africa (1994-1999) and a hugely inspiration figure. After serving 27 years in prison, he somehow managed to keep his sense of purpose (and humor later saying, “In my country, we go to prison first and then become President”!) to abolish apartheid and establish the first multi-racial elections in 1994.

Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, and became President of South Africa in 1994. He formed a Government of National Unity to end racial segregation; and he established a new constitution and formed the Truth and Reconciliation Committee to investigate past human rights abuses, while introducing policies to encourage land reform, combat poverty and expand healthcare services. Though Mandela declined to run for a second term, he continued his charitable work, focusing especially on combating poverty and HIV/AIDS through the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

Mandela is held in deep respect around the world, and, in South Africa he is known as the “Father of the Nation.” Though the lessons of wisdom and resiliency that one could capture from a study of Nelson Mandela are numerous, this quote is perhaps one of my favorite at getting to the root of his ultimate struggle and victory over apartheid in South Africa:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of their 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.”

Photo source: Nelson Mandela