‘The words that changed the world’: Nelson Mandela

«Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world» (N. Mandela) 

What better words could we use to start this new section on our blog about some of the most motivational sentences ever pronounced or written? These are words the School really and profoundly identifies with, words from the great Nelson Mandela, a brilliant leader and the inspiration of our School’s everyday work.

«Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the World». 13 words. A powerful concept. Mandela spoke these words in 1990, during his trip to the United States, in a speech at the Madison Park High School in Roxbury, Boston. He was admonishing young people who were increasingly dropping out of their studies: even though they lived in difficult situations, only by continuing their education did they have the weapons to combat and realise their change!

He chose to use the word ‘weapon’. A very strong word, because the improvement of one’s condition is a real war, and it has to be fought with the right weapons in order to win it.

On another occasion, 13 years later, Mandela re-proposed the concept. That time he was in the University of Witwatersrand, in Johannesburg, in his South Africa, at the presentation of an important didactic initiative.

He used the sentence to remind people about how cultural marginalization, the banishment of black children from learning subjects such as Maths, Science and English, was foundational and one of the weapons used during that time as a means of oppression by those who supported the Apartheid. Ignorance became a way to control, and that made development impossible.

The most interesting thing is that education, from the sixties on, wasn’t only considered  as a social right, but as an essential development lever for nations, by prestigious economists and winners of the Nobel Prize (Theodore Schultz, James S. Coleman, James Heckman, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Amarthya Sen).

We believe that education, apart from being a fundamental right, is a duty of active citizenship, a factor of economic development, and the main lever for ‘empowerment’ and social change.



The Boston Globe: “Nelson Mandela’s 1990 visit left lasting impression

Nelson Mandela Digital Archive Project: “Nelson Mandela Foundation – Lighting your way to a better future” 

Picture: Nelson Mandela raises his fist to the crowd in Port Elizabeth, April 1, 1990. From  Boston Herald 

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