16 August 2017

South Africa: Where Is the Mandela Quote in the Most-Liked Tweet Ever From?

Photo: Pete Souza/White House
On the last day of their visit to South Africa in 2013, President Barack Obama took his wife, Michelle, and daughters Malia and Sasha to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years.

A tweet by former US president Barack Obama in response to violence in the US town of Charlottesville has become the most-liked tweet in Twitter's history.

The first of three, the tweet contained a quote from another former president, South Africa's Nelson Mandela. Obama attached a picture of himself reaching up to four children.

But where is it from?

"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion... " pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm -- Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017

Describing inauguration as first black president

Obama was quoting from the final pages of Mandela's autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, which has also been turned into a film. Mandela was describing his inauguration on 10 May 1994 as South Africa's first democratically elected president, following decades of white supremacist rule.

Mandela started the final section by writing that on that day, he was "overwhelmed with a sense of history", thinking back on all the sacrifices made to achieve black people's freedom in the country of their birth.

But, Mandela continued, he had "never lost hope that this great transformation would occur". And that is because he "always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity", before launching into the sentences quoted by Obama.

He ended the paragraph with: "Man's goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished."

Final section contains more famous phrases

The last pages of Long Walk to Freedom contain some of the most quoted Mandela phrases, including: "The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Another: "A man who takes away another man's freedom is a prisoner of hatred, he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrow-mindedness. I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else's freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppresses and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity."

But, as Africa Check has previously reported, quotes are also frequently mis-attributed to Mandela. Probably the most common is a phrase by US author Marianne Williamson, who said: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure." Another, of uncertain origin, is: "It always seems impossible until it's done."

To search Mandela's speeches, the Nelson Mandela Foundation has a database available: Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project. - 16/08/2017

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