UTA Magazine
South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Desmond TutuSouth African Archbishop Desmond Tutu had audience members clapping, cheering and chuckling from the moment he teased them about their weak response to his “good evening” greeting.

The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke at a packed Texas Hall in March on “God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time.” As general secretary of the South African Council of Churches from 1978-86, Tutu rose to international prominence for his stand against apartheid, a racist system that ruled his country until 1994.

The 2,700 in attendance interrupted the 35-minute speech 16 times with applause and numerous other times with laughter at his anecdotes and messages of justice and reconciliation. At one point, he waved an imaginary wand over the crowd, turning the people into grateful South Africans so they could help him thank America for ridding South Africa of apartheid.

“The demise of apartheid, ladies and gentlemen, is a spectacular demonstration that this is a moral universe, that right and wrong in fact matter,” he said, “that injustice and oppression and lies and evil won’t ever prevail in the world.”

After the talk, which was sponsored by UTA’s Africa Program, state Sen. Royce West (’74 BA, ’79 MA) presented Tutu with a Texas flag that had flown over the Capitol in Austin. The archbishop then shook hands with dozens of audience members and posed for photographs.

Elements of his speech drew spirited reaction.

On the triumph of justice
“Haven’t we seen the end of some of the most vicious systems the world has known? Nazism has been defeated. Fascism has been defeated. We have seen the collapse of the Berlin Wall. Communism has been defeated. And, of course, we have also seen the demise of apartheid.”

On the end of apartheid
“We will be celebrating 10 years of freedom next month. Today we are free. The shackles that bound our wrists and our ankles have been shattered and have fallen away. … On behalf of millions and millions and millions of our people, I want to say a very big, big ‘thank you’ for having helped us become free.”

On Nelson Mandela
“I think everyone would agree that today standing head and shoulders above every other political figure is Nelson Mandela. … He made us thrilled to be human. … When he should have been bitter and angry after coming out of 27 years of imprisonment, instead he invited his white jailer to attend his inauguration as president. … This is how we know we ought to be.”

On God’s love
“It is because God loves us that we are lovable. … We are special in a way that cannot be computed. We are made for transcendence. We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for compassion.”

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