Hillary Clinton used the quote during her 1998 commencement speech at Howard University, and the movie Akeelah and the Bee turns to it for a lesson on empowerment, to name some famous examples. Yes, after a lifetime of fighting for racial equality, Mandela got up to that podium and relayed a message that was truly important to him. And it was basically: "You go, girl!"
But Really ...
Loath as we are to reveal Clinton's white belt in Google-fu, Nelson Mandela never uttered these words. The quote actually comes from a self-help book by Marianne Williamson called A Return to Love. Williamson, it turns out, is a new age guru whose brand of schmaltzy love-yourself advice earned her a place among Oprah's all-time favorite bullshitters. Attributing this quote to Mandela is like attributing a passage from The Secret to Gandhi.
He did preach a good two-thirds of Eat, Pray, Love.
The misattribution of this quote is so frequent that the folks at the Nelson Mandela Foundation have included it in the FAQ about Mandela in a desperate attempt to keep themselves from tearing their handsome salt-and-pepper hair out. Even the South African Embassy in D.C. has had to waste their time clearing the confusion up a few times since Mandela's inauguration in '94.