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The Notion of Freedom in Nelson Mandela's Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

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Freedom is an abstract concept often measured by the liberty one mentally feels. Throughout history, freedom has been assessed by one’s ability to live as they please with little restriction or opposition. During the Nelson Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, he acknowledged the notion of freedom by stating “for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”. Although his main declaration is supportable one, it is preposterous to determine one’s freedom by how they interact with others.

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Humans are both social and solitary creatures. Biologically, all primates are considered to very social; however, the intelligence humans possess causes for more depth than ecological interactions. Humans recognize unique internal concepts such as metacognition, empathy, the ability to predict detailed events based on one action. Since humans are so emotionally and mentally complex, it is difficult to understand what exactly causes an individual to feel free. The obscurity the human mind entails furthers why it is ridiculous to declare one liberated based on their interactions with other people. Freedom is subjective and is experienced differently by each human; therefore, one cannot ever truly be deemed liberated, so it is illogical to claim one is free based on whether or not they have freed others.

Contrarily, true inner freedom is marked by a specific sensation. The sensation evokes a strong sentiment of peacefulness, tranquility, and satisfaction. Liberty is difficult to understand because it is a mental state; however, liberty can also be defined as one’s physical surroundings. It is crucial to remember that even one that is enchained, enslaved, or imprisoned can choose to feel free. Regardless of where an individual resides, their freedom depends on how they mentally feel; consequently, liberating others can reinforce the feeling of independence in the liberator. The phenomenal cycle of freedom resulting from unchaining others is similar to the cycle of happiness; typically, humans feel joy when they inspire happiness in others. The cause-and-effect sequence of freedom supports Mandela’s declaration that casting off one’s chains is only a portion of freedom; genuine liberty stems from casting off the chains of others.

Mandela’s diction raises a rather intriguing concept. When he states that freedom is achieved when one “lives in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”, Mandela is claiming it is a liberated individual’s duty to deferentially augment those around one. The principle of respect is repeated throughout his Nobel Peace Prize speech, implying that reverence is significant to him. Furthermore, Mandela agreeably mentions that humans should exist in a way that assists one another. Although it is controversial to state that people are reliable for one another, it is unquestionably true that society operates more fluidly when individuals respect and benefit one another.

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Overall, humans are not responsible for the liberty of others. Freedom is a state of mind that can only be achieved by the individual independently from outside assistance. One cannot force another to genuinely feel something; therefore, liberation, similar to happiness, is a sensation an individual experiences involuntarily. Although it is difficult to force oneself or others to undergo emotions, it does not mean one should relinquish their desire to feel free. Inner liberation develops from evoking one’s peacefulness; once an individual experiences genuine tranquility, then they may begin to enlighten and unchain others from the burden of restriction

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The Notion of Freedom in Nelson Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech. (2018, October 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 5, 2023, from
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