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The words that inspire leadership

The words that inspire leadership

Leading Change supporters and contributors share their most treasured quotes and explain why they love them

Amelia Viney

Amelia Viney is the Founding Director of the Advocacy Academy, which empowers young people to find a political voice. She says, “We prioritise that part of life about going into the community and making a difference to society.”

For Amelia, this ethos is encapsulated in a quote from Minor Myers Junior, late President of Illinois Wesleyan University (IWU) and advocate of education in the liberal arts. Speaking to graduates of IWU in 2002, Myers said:

“Go forth and do well. But even more, go forth and do good.”

Amelia says this inspires her because to have a meaningful life, you need a living but also a cause. “You need to live in a way that improves the world. Then you feel like you’ve made a difference.”

Darwin Bernardo

Darwin Bernardo is the co-founder of youth empowerment organisation, Nutmeg CommUNITY, and a member of the Queen's Young Leaders Advisory Panel. When it comes to young people, his favourite quote is:

“Opportunity favours the prepared mind.”

This comes from Louis Pasteur, who is best known for inventing the process of pasteurisation and was talking about making scientific observations when he said it.

But for Darwin, the wisdom of this quote resonates with the situation of the young people he’s worked with, who craved opportunity. “They were ready for anything ... They were prepared, and opportunity favours a prepared mind.”

Pepe Julian Onziema

Pepe Julian Onziema, Programme Director and Advocacy Officer at Sexual Minorities Uganda, (SMUG) is a big fan of empowering quotes and wisdoms, starting with the proverb:

“Onita eri okpo ni” – “Knowledge is power”.

“It’s a proverb attributed to no one particular, from my native or indigenous language, Madi, and is also used by the Lugbara of the West Nile.”

Knowledge has played a key role in SMUG’s strategy as the group campaigns for human rights and defends the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community in Uganda. In an atmosphere of hostility, Pepe draws strength from the words of Madiba Nelson Mandela:

“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.”

Like Pepe, South African poet Mzwakhe Mbuli is no stranger to prejudice and oppression. Throughout the 1980s, Mzwakhe was repeatedly detained by the authorities and denied a passport to travel. In his tribute to the late Nelson Mandela he wrote:

“We are duty bound to rise above malice and prejudice and let reason and wisdom prevail.”

This has a lot of resonance for Pepe, as does a similar sentiment expressed by the Dalai Lama:

“Do not let the behaviour of others destroy your inner peace.”

Racquel Wilson

Racquel Wilson grew up in the beautiful Caribbean island of St Vincent and the Grenadines and is currently a peer advisory mentor for Queen’s Young Leaders.

She describes herself as “goal oriented and driven”. As well as focusing on her academic work she likes to get involved with community organisations to give back her knowledge and skill, while learning from the people she interacts with.

“I am also of the philosophy anyone can do anything they set their mind to, and that one should never be discouraged by disappointments or failures along the way.”

Racquel cites Robert F Kennedy, who said in his Day of Affirmation Address (1966) at the University of Capetown, South Africa:

"Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” 

For Racquel there is a direct link between the words of Robert F Kennedy and those of Eleanor Roosevelt:

"The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

These quotes inspire Racquel as a volunteer and as a mentor.

“I encourage everyone I meet to dream big, work hard and achieve great things and use any failures as stepping stones for success.”