José Mujica is the president of Uruguay. Unlike most world leaders, he does not reside in a presidential palace. Instead, he voluntarily chooses to live on a farm located off a dirt road. Additionally, Mujica gives away 90 percent of his salary to charity.
This man is 79 years old, has no bank account and drives a 1987 Volkswagen that’s older than most Millennials.
Mujica also refuses to wear a tie, and it has nothing to do with fashion. Sandals are the staple of most of his outfits. Correspondingly, during an interview he once stated:
“The tie is a useless rag that constrains your neck. I’m an enemy of consumerism. Because of this hyperconsumerism, we’re forgetting about fundamental things and wasting human strength on frivolities that have little to do with human happiness.”
He will not allow trivialities to dominate his life, always focusing on the most pressing issues for humanity.
At a time when consumption fuels our existence, Mujica urges the global community to protect and preserve this planet for future generations.
Mujica is a champion for the poor, and stands up for oppressed and marginalized peoples. He’s offered asylum to detainees from Guantanamo Bay, and shelter to Syrian children refugees.
In a region where Catholicism and machismo often reign supreme, he’s boldly supported women’s rights by legalizing abortion. Likewise, he’s legalized marijuana and gay marriage.
As a young man, Mujica was a revolutionary who eventually faced imprisonment and even torture. Thus, it’s not surprising that he embraces benevolent changes with open arms, regardless of whether or not the rest of the world is ready.
There is no other global leader quite like him. He’s a model for concentrating on what’s truly important. If more leaders followed his example, we would live in a decidedly better world.
Here are five quotes that provide a glimpse into the mind and wisdom of the world’s most humble leader:
1. “I believe that life is a marvelous adventure. And it’s worthwhile to start again 20 times over.”
Every day is another chance to start over, no matter how bad things may seem. We are products of our pasts, but we all have a chance to mold a better future in the present. Never ever give up. Keep fighting. Anything is possible.
The greatest leaders in history often emerged from terrible hardship. Pain and strife are natural aspects of life, and the wisest people are typically those who have suffered the most.
Embrace this tumultuous journey we call life. There will be ups and downs, joys and sorrows, laughter and tears. Nothing is permanent. The only constant in life is change.
2. “I’m not the poorest president. The poorest is the one who needs a lot to live. My lifestyle is a consequence of my wounds. I’m the son of my history. There have been years when I would have been happy just to have a mattress.”
True wealth has nothing to do with money, it’s defined by what you value in life. If you value material possessions, you will never be satisfied.
When it comes down to it, many of us have much more than we need to survive. The pressures of consumerism implore us to desire a life of luxury. But even if you have all of the gold in the world, you can’t take it with you when you die.
Instead, give back to the world. Stay humble. Help the most vulnerable people. Bestow what you have learned in life to future generations. Simplify your surroundings. Give more than you receive. Be a steward of the environment.
Immortality is achieved by fostering benevolent changes in the world around you. The greatest people in history are not remembered for what they had, but for what they did.
3. “Be yourself and don’t try to impose your criteria on the rest. I don’t expect others to live like me. I want to respect people’s freedom, but I defend my freedom. And that comes with the courage to say what you think, even if sometimes others don’t share those views.”
Do not judge others for possessing values and perspectives that differ from your own. Morality is subjective. Geography and culture breed disparity in people’s perceptions. Don’t assume that your opinion is sacrosanct.
Simultaneously, stand up for your beliefs and defend your rights. The strength of our convictions can only be measured when they are exposed to the wider world. Fear of expressing one’s beliefs is indicative of their inadequacy. As the Holocaust survivor and writer Elie Wiesel once stated: “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
The worst crimes against humanity were committed because good people failed to raise their voices.
4. “It’s important not to forget anything, but I think looking to tomorrow is necessary. You can’t live off memories. It’s important to look to the past, but also to lose respect for it.”
We can learn a great deal from the past. History has a lot to teach us about humanity’s failures and triumphs. If we don’t learn from our mistakes, we can never improve the world around us.
At the same time, it’s dangerous to place too much emphasis on the past. Innovation is the key to progress. Simply put, it’s impossible to move forward without deviating from tradition.
5. “The only good addiction is love. Forget everything else.”
There is no greater force on earth than love. It cannot be quantified or contained; it’s boundless.
The world is in desperate need of more compassionate inhabitants. We need to stop viewing people from different countries and cultures as “others.” All humans simply want to live happy and free lives.
Regardless of our differences, we all have the capacity to love; this is what makes us human. Be kind to strangers and embrace diversity. We cannot choose where we are from in this world, but we can choose to treat others with dignity and respect.