: A Fearless Beacon of Moral Justice: Remembering Desmond Tutu #WorldNEWS On the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison in February of 1990, he walked out of the gates of Victor Verster prison in
A Fearless Beacon of Moral Justice: Remembering Desmond Tutu #WorldNEWS
On the day Nelson Mandela was released from prison in February of 1990, he walked out of the gates of Victor Verster prison in Cape Town and was surprised by the crowds of people. After striding out and giving the clenched fist salute, he got into a car to go to the Grand Parade in Cape Town where he was scheduled to give his first speech as a free man. But the driver was upset by the crowds and panicked, and then started driving wildly. Twenty minutes later, with the eyes of the world upon him, and a 100,000 people waiting to hear him, the planet’s most famous freedom fighter was lost. .
Mandela told me this story in 1993 while we were working together on his autobiography. He said that he had managed to calm the driver down, and get him to stop at the house of an ANC supporter outside of town. But then he wasn’t sure what to do. “Whilst we were there,” Mandela said to me, “Tutu phones and said, ‘Man, you must come immediately to the town hall because the people are going to rebel if you are not here!’ So I went. ” Mandela recalled this with a smile and a laugh, but he always listened seriously to the man everyone called The Arch. After his speech that day, Mandela spent his first night of freedom at Tutu’s home at Bishops Court in Cape Town. “He is one of my heroes,” Mandela told me, and meant it.
Desmond Mpilo Tutu, who died this week of cancer at the age of 90, was the ebullient hero of the struggle against apartheid and the quest for freedom in South Africa. The son of a schoolteacher and a domestic servant, he became the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa and a tireless and courageous campaigner against what he called the evil of apartheid. Martin Luther King Jr. once described himself as a “drum major” for justice—Tutu described himself as a “rabble-rouser” of righteousness. He is one of the handful of those who can be called South Africa’s greatest generation: Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo, Kathrada, and Tutu. He was a powerful and fearless beacon of moral justice and perhaps the most spellbinding speaker I’ve ever seen. His voice ranged over octaves, from squeals of laughter to a basso profundo of moral righteousness, from whispers of prayer to shouts of joy. When the spirit moved him—which was often—he would do a Hobbit-like dance on stage. I’d never really understood the phrase “infectious laughter” until I heard him speak. His goal was never changing: to mobilize people against injustice but always, always toward forgiveness and love. In the face of so much injustice and despair, he never lost his faith, and never failed to inspire it in others.
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