News cycle got you down? Let these 4 quotes from Nelson Mandela inspire you to act.

Freedom fighter, human rights advocate, prisoner, and all-around remarkable human Nelson Mandela was South Africa's first black president and first post-apartheid leader.

Not only did Mandela fiercely advocate on behalf of South Africans of color, he gave up decades of his life to do it. His visionary actions against South Africa's racist policies led to a 27-year imprisonment on Robben Island.

Photo by Stephen Jaffe/AFP/Getty Images.


Mandela's actions — from protesting to collaborating with like-minded revolutionaries to his nearly 30-year prison sentence — have been well-documented. But the world didn't know the details of his time in prison — until now.

On July 18, The New York Times is publishing hundreds of unreleased letters from Mandela to coincide with what would have been his 100th birthday.

In "The Prison Letters of Nelson Mandela," over 250 letters to his family, friends, and colleagues reveal some of Mandela's thoughts and emotions during a turbulent time in his life.

Here are five of the key takeaways from collection excerpts:

1. Peace and harmony are possible.

Mandela held onto his faith and spirituality as a source of inspiration to continue fighting for the world he believed in. He wrote of the parts of the Bible that resonated with him strongest:

"The importance of the passages ... lies in the fact that they tell us of a way of life which would have brought us peace and harmony many centuries ago, if mankind had fully accepted and faithfully practiced the teachings they contain.

They visualize a new world where there will be no wars, where famine, disease, and racial intolerance will be no more, precisely the world for which I am fighting … "

2. There is a time for civility and kindness, and there is a time to fight for change.

Prioritizing civility and kindness is important, but there are always times when one must stand up for what is right. Mandela offered some blatant, important truths, noting that while one person is powerful, a group of people committed to a just cause can move mountains:

"It's a good thing to help a friend whenever you can; but individual acts of hospitality are not the answer. Those who want to wipe out poverty from the face of the earth must use other weapons, weapons other than kindness.

This is not a problem that can be handled by individual acts of hospitality. The man who attempted to use his own possessions to help all the needy would be permanently ruined and in due course himself live on alms. Experience shows that this problem can be effectively tackled only by a disciplined body of persons, who are inspired by the same ideas and united in a common cause."

Photo by Trevor Samson/AFP/Getty Images.

3. Humans are complex and resilient.

In a letter to his wife Winnie, Mandela discussed his attempts to find solace in solitary confinement and described the complexity of the human experience — including our capacity for resilience:

"Honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, pure generosity, absence of vanity, readiness to serve others — qualities which are within easy reach of every soul — are the foundation of one's spiritual life.

Never forget that a saint is a sinner who keeps on trying. … No ax is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise and win in the end."

Good people make mistakes, but the determination to do good prevails.

4. There is power in unwavering hope.

In another letter to Winnie, Mandela made an impassioned plea to use hope in the face of adversity. Having read the work of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, Mandela expressed his unshakable belief in the power of positive thinking:

"The man who says: I will conquer this illness and live a happy life, is already halfway through to victory. … Remember that hope is a powerful weapon even when all else is lost.

You and I, however, have gained much over the years and are making advances in important respects. You are in my thoughts every moment of my life. Nothing will happen to you, darling. You will certainly recover and rise."

Photo by Walter Dhldhla/AFP/Getty Images.

Nelson Mandela's letters reveal a man who was nuanced, thoughtful, and determined to do good. In our changing, complex society, his words offer important insights on how to continue fighting for a better world.

More

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Amy Johnson

The first day of school can be both exciting and scary at the same time — especially if it's your first day ever, as was the case for a nervous four-year-old in Wisconsin. But with a little help from a kind bus driver, he was able to get over his fear.

Axel was "super excited" waiting for the bus in Augusta with his mom, Amy Johnson, until it came time to actually get on.

"He was all smiles when he saw me around the corner and I started to slow down and that's when you could see his face start to change," his bus driver, Isabel "Izzy" Lane, told WEAU.

The scared boy wouldn't get on the bus without help from his mom, so she picked him up and carried him aboard, trying to give him a pep talk.

"He started to cling to me and I told him, 'Buddy, you got this and will have so much fun!'" Johnson told Fox 7.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared