At OCAN‘s Ohio College Access & Success Conference last week, I presented the following words, attributing them to Nelson Mandela, from his 1994 inaugural speech:

Our worst fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, "Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?"

Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory…within us. It is not just in some of us, it is in everyone, and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

These words are wonderful. And, coming from Nelson Mandela, they are extraordinary. As I imagine him meditating on these words, I see him as a great teacher today who spent decades imprisoned, wondering whether he had the right to see himself as "brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous."

Now, he can look a schoolchild (or us) in the eyes and tell us that we must.

Do You Care That It Wasn’t President Mandela?
This is the perfect lesson from Mr. Mandela.

But he didn’t say it originally. The quotation is widely mis-attributed to him. I found it on the Internet and repeated the mis-attribution.

It comes from Marianne Williamson’s A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of "A Course in Miracles." She has written that it’s odd to see the words attributed to Mr. Mandela, but she’s checked his inaugural speeches and, sure enough, the words are not in there. She writes that his office said that President Mandela used them in a lesser speech, but she hasn’t seen where.

With all due credit to Ms. Williamson, are the words any less meaningful because they didn’t come from the legendary head of state?

Frankly, I think the last sentence should be said by all of us: "There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you."