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. 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. It was during these long and lonely years that my hunger for the freedom
of my people became a hunger for the freedom of all people, white and black. I
knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as
surely as the oppressed.
When I walked out of prison, that was my mission, to liberate the oppressed and the oppressor both. Some say that has now been achieved. But I know that that is not the case. The truth is that we are not yet free; we have merely achieved the freedom to be free, the right not to be oppressed. We have not taken the final step of our journey, but the first step on a longer and even more difficult road. I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.