Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela Paragraph Wise Word Meanings: This chapter is a part of the curriculum that aims to introduce students to the inspiring life of one of the greatest leaders of our time, Nelson Mandela. In this post, we will break down the text paragraph by paragraph and analyse the meaning of the words and phrases used, helping you to better understand and appreciate the text. So, let’s dive in and embark on a journey to discover the true meaning of Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom!
Meanings: Long Walk to Freedom: Nelson Mandela
TENTH May dawned bright and clear. For the past few days I had been pleasantly besieged by dignitaries and world leaders who were coming to pay their respects before the inauguration. The inauguration would be the largest gathering ever of international leaders on South African soil.
The ceremonies took place in the lovely sandstone amphitheatre formed by the Union Buildings in Pretoria. For decades this had been the seat of white supremacy, and now it was the site of a rainbow gathering of different colours and nations for the installation of South Africa’s first democratic, non-racial government.
On that lovely autumn day I was accompanied by my daughter Zenani. On the podium, Mr de Klerk was first sworn in as second deputy president. Then Thabo Mbeki was sworn in as first deputy president. When it was my turn, I pledged to obey and uphold the Constitution and to devote myself to the wellbeing of the Republic and its people. To the assembled guests and the watching world, I said:
Today, all of us do, by our presence here… confer glory and hope to newborn liberty. Out of the experience of an extraordinary human disaster that lasted too long, must be born a society of which all humanity will be proud.We, who were outlaws not so long ago, have today been given the rare privilege to be host to the nations of the world on our own soil. We thank all of our distinguished international guests for having come to take possession with the people of our country of what is, after all, a common victory for justice, for peace, for human dignity.
|May dawned bright and clear
|The month of May started with a bright and clear morning
|People who hold high positions and are respected for their status
|Heads of state or government officials from various countries
|The formal ceremony of starting a new position or government
|Heads of state or government officials from different countries
|South African soil
|The land of South Africa
|Formal events or occasions
|A natural or man-made structure made of sandstone, where events or performances can be held
|Government buildings in Pretoria, South Africa
|A political ideology that believes in the superiority of white people over people of other races
|A diverse group of people from different races, cultures, and backgrounds
|A system of government where citizens have a say in the decision-making process
|A society or government that does not discriminate based on race
|A day in the fall season
|Taking an oath to fulfil the duties of a particular position
|Promised or committed to something
|The fundamental laws and principles that govern a country or organization
|To give time, effort, or resources to something
|The state of being happy, healthy, and prosperous
|A form of government where power rests with the citizens and their elected representatives
|People who break the law and are not recognized as members of society
|To entertain or welcome guests
|A shared achievement
|Fairness and equality under the law
|The absence of violence and conflict
|The idea that all human beings have inherent worth and value
We have, at last, achieved our political emancipation. We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination.
Never, never, and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another.
The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement.
Let freedom reign. God bless Africa!
A few moments later we all lifted our eyes in awe as a spectacular array of South African jets, helicopters and troop carriers roared in perfect formation over the Union Buildings. It was not only a display of pinpoint precision and military force, but a demonstration of the military’s loyalty to democracy, to a new government that had been freely and fairly elected. Only moments before, the highest generals of the South African defence force and police, their chests bedecked with ribbons and medals from days gone by, saluted me and pledged their loyalty. I was not unmindful of the fact that not so many years before they would not have saluted but arrested me. Finally a chevron of Impala jets left a smoke trail of the black, red, green, blue and gold of the new South African flag.
|Freedom from political oppression or control
|Bondage of poverty
|Being trapped in poverty
|Lack of basic necessities or comforts of life
|Pain or distress caused by injury, illness, or hardship
|Unfair treatment of individuals based on their gender
|Prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control
|Glorious human achievement
|Remarkable accomplishment by humanity
|Let freedom reign
|Expression of a desire for freedom to prevail
|God bless Africa
|A wish for God’s blessings on Africa
|The quality of being exact or accurate
|The strength or power of a military organization
|Loyalty to democracy
|Devotion to the principles of democracy
|Freely and fairly elected
|Chosen in a democratic process without interference
|Ribbons and medals
|Decorations worn to signify awards or honours
|Greeted with a gesture of respect, usually a hand salute
|Chevon of Impala jets
|A formation of military aircraft in a V-shape
|New South African flag
|The current flag of South Africa, adopted after the end of apartheid
The day was symbolised for me by the playing of our two national anthems, and the vision of whites singing ‘Nkosi Sikelel –iAfrika’ and blacks singing ‘Die Stem’, the old anthem of the Republic. Although that day neither group knew the lyrics of the anthem they once despised, they would soon know the words by heart.
On the day of the inauguration, I was overwhelmed with a sense of history. In the first decade of the twentieth century, a few years after the bitter Anglo-Boer war and before my own birth, the white-skinned peoples of South Africa patched up their differences and erected a system of racial domination against the dark-skinned peoples of their own land. The structure they created formed the basis of one of the harshest, most inhumane, societies the world has ever known. Now, in the last decade of the twentieth century, and my own eighth decade as a man, that system had been overturned forever and replaced by one that recognised the rights and freedoms of all peoples, regardless of the colour of their skin.
|Official songs representing a country
|People with light skin colour
|People with dark skin colour
|A hymn originally written in the Xhosa language, later adopted as part of the South African national anthem
|The old national anthem of South Africa, originally written in Afrikaans
|The words of a song
|The formal ceremony marking the beginning of a new period in office or position
|Sense of history
|A feeling of being part of significant events from the past
|The period from 1901 to 2000
|A conflict fought between the British Empire and two Boer states, the South African Republic and the Orange Free State, from 1899 to 1902
|The control and oppression of one race by another
|People with darker skin colour, typically referring to black Africans
|Lacking compassion or mercy; cruel or brutal
|Rights and freedoms
|Entitlements and liberties afforded to individuals in a society
|Colour of their skin
|Refers to the tone of a person’s skin, often used as a basis for discrimination in the context of racism
That day had come about through the unimaginable sacrifices of thousands of my people, people whose suffering and courage can never be counted or repaid. I felt that day, as I have on so many other days, that I was simply the sum of all those African patriots who had gone before me. That long and noble line ended and now began again with me. I was pained that I was not able to thank them and that they were not able to see what their sacrifices had wrought.
The policy of apartheid created a deep and lasting wound in my country and my people. All of us will spend many years, if not generations, recovering from that profound hurt. But the decades of oppression and brutality had another, unintended, effect, and that was that it produced the Oliver Tambos, the Walter Sisulus, the Chief Luthulis, the Yusuf Dadoos, the Bram Fischers, the Robert Sobukwes of our time* — men of such extraordinary courage, wisdom and generosity that their like may never be known again. Perhaps it requires such depths of oppression to create such heights of character. My country is rich in the minerals and gems that lie beneath its soil, but I have always known that its greatest wealth is its people, finer and truer than the purest diamonds.
|Giving up something valuable or important for a greater cause
|The ability to face danger or difficulty with bravery
|People who love and support their country and its interests
|A lineage of people who are distinguished by their character, achievements, or qualities
|A policy of racial segregation and discrimination against non-white people in South Africa
|An injury, both physical and emotional
|The process of healing and returning to a normal state
|The unjust or cruel exercise of power and authority
|The quality of being brutal or cruel
|A consequence that is not planned or intended
|A South African anti-apartheid politician and revolutionary who served as the President of the African National Congress from 1967 to 1991
|A South African anti-apartheid activist and member of the African National Congress who played a key role in the movement against apartheid
|A South African anti-apartheid activist and politician who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1960 for his role in the non-violent struggle against apartheid
|A South African anti-apartheid activist and trade unionist who played a key role in the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU)
|A South African anti-apartheid activist and lawyer who defended Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders during the Rivonia Trial
|A South African anti-apartheid activist and political leader who founded the Pan Africanist Congress
|Heights of character
|The highest level of moral and ethical qualities a person can possess
|Minerals and gems
|Valuable natural resources found beneath the soil
|The abundance of valuable possessions or resources
|The population of a country, including their character, qualities, and achievements
|In this context, the word “diamonds” is used metaphorically to refer to the natural resources found in South Africa, such as minerals and gems. However, the speaker emphasizes that the true wealth of South Africa is not its natural resources but its people, who he considers to be “finer and truer than the purest diamonds.” This suggests that the speaker values the human potential and capacity for greatness above material wealth.
It is from these comrades in the struggle that I learned the meaning of courage. Time and again, I have seen men and women risk and give their lives for an idea. I have seen men stand up to attacks and torture without breaking, showing a strength and resilience that defies the imagination. I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
No one is born hating another person because of the colour 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. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.
|The ability to face danger, difficulty, or pain without being overcome by fear.
|A great victory or achievement.
|Willing to face danger, difficulty, or pain without showing fear.
|An unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous or harmful.
|Feel intense or passionate dislike for someone.
|A strong feeling of affection or deep attachment.
|The quality of being humane; kindness, compassion, and sympathy for others.
|People who are responsible for the safety and security of a place or person.
|The quality of being morally right or virtuous.
In life, every man has twin obligations — obligations to his family, to his parents, to his wife and children; and he has an obligation to his people, his community, his country. In a civil and humane society, each man is able to fulfil those obligations according to his own inclinations and abilities. But in a country like South Africa, it was almost impossible for a man of my birth and colour to fulfil both of those obligations. In South Africa, a man of colour who attempted to live as a human being was punished and isolated. In South Africa, a man who tried to fulfil his duty to his people was inevitably ripped from his family and his home and was forced to live a life apart, a twilight existence of secrecy and rebellion. I did not in the beginning choose to place my people above my family, but in attempting to serve my people, I found that I was prevented from fulfilling my obligations as a son, a brother, a father and a husband.
I was not born with a hunger to be free. I was born free — free in every way that I could know. Free to run in the fields near my mother’s hut, free to swim in the clear stream that ran through my village, free to roast mealies under the stars and ride the broad backs of slow-moving bulls. As long as I obeyed my father and abided by the customs of my tribe, I was not troubled by the laws of man or God.
|Duties or responsibilities that one is expected to fulfil, often based on personal or social expectations.
|Related to the organization and functioning of a society or community, often involving laws, regulations, and social norms.
|Compassionate and respectful of human life and dignity, often characterized by kindness, understanding, and empathy.
|Used in this context to refer to racial or ethnic identity, often associated with physical features such as skin tone.
|Penalized or disciplined for breaking a rule or law, often involving negative consequences or harm.
|Separated or cut off from others, often resulting in loneliness, depression, or a lack of social support.
|An obligation or responsibility to fulfil a particular role or function, often based on social or moral norms.
|Resistance or defiance against authority or social norms, often motivated by a desire for freedom or justice.
|A strong desire or craving for something, often related to basic human needs such as food, shelter, or freedom.
|Traditions or practices that are common in a particular culture or community, often based on historical or social factors.
It was only when I began to learn that my boyhood freedom was an illusion, when I discovered as a young man that my freedom had already been taken from me, that I began to hunger for it. At first, as a student, I wanted freedom only for myself, the transitory freedoms of being able to stay out at night, read what I pleased and go where I chose. Later, as a young man in Johannesburg, I yearned for the basic and honourable freedoms of achieving my potential, of earning my keep, of marrying and having a family — the freedom not to be obstructed in a lawful life.
But then I slowly saw that not only was I not free, but my brothers and sisters were not free. I saw that it was not just my freedom that was curtailed, but the freedom of everyone who looked like I did. That is when I joined the African National Congress, and that is when the hunger for my own freedom became the greater hunger for the freedom of my people. It was this desire for the freedom of my people to live their lives with dignity and selfrespect that animated my life, that transformed a frightened young man into a bold one, that drove a law-abiding attorney to become a criminal, that turned a family-loving husband into a man without a home, that forced a life-loving man to live like a monk. I am no more virtuous or self-sacrificing than the next man, but I found that I could not even enjoy the poor and limited freedoms I was allowed when I knew my people were not free. Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.
|A false perception or belief, often caused by deception or misinterpretation of reality.
|A strong desire or craving for something, often related to basic human needs such as food, shelter, or freedom.
|Temporary or short-lived, not lasting or enduring.
|Hindered or prevented from achieving something, often due to external obstacles or barriers.
|African National Congress
|A political party in South Africa that played a key role in the country’s struggle against apartheid and racism.
|The quality or state of being worthy of respect and honor, often associated with a sense of self-respect and pride.
|Confidence and pride in oneself, often stemming from a sense of personal worth and achievement.
|Possessing or displaying moral excellence, often characterized by honesty, integrity, and a sense of justice.
|Willing to give up personal interests or desires for the benefit of others or a greater cause.
|Unable to be divided or separated, often used to describe a concept or value that applies equally to all individuals or groups.
I knew that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed. A man who takes away another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred; he is locked behind the bars of prejudice and narrowmindedness. 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 oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.
|A person or group that exercises authority or power over others in a cruel, unjust manner, often depriving them of their rights and freedoms.
|Set free from oppression or confinement.
|The state of being free from the control or influence of others, or the ability to act, speak, or think without external restraint or coercion.
|Prisoner of hatred
|A person who is controlled by their feelings of hatred and is unable to act rationally or without bias towards others.
|Preconceived opinions or attitudes towards a particular group or individual, usually based on insufficient knowledge or experience.
|A lack of openness or tolerance towards different ideas, opinions, or people.
|The quality or state of being human, including compassion, empathy, and respect for the dignity of all people.
|A person or group that is subjected to unjust treatment or control by those in power, often leading to a loss of their rights and freedoms.