April 11, 2000
Educated in South Africa and London and ordained in 1961, Desmond Tutu became the first black Anglican dean of Johannesburg in 1975. As general secretary of the South African Council of Churches (1978-84), he was an outspoken campaigner against apartheid and his work on behalf of civil rights and his belief in educational opportunity for all earned him the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize. In 1986, he was the first black elected archbishop of Cape Town. Archbishop Tutu recently served as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, and has acted as an unofficial human rights ambassador around the world, advocating nonviolence and interracial reconciliation in the struggle against apartheid.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission received international acclaim for the way in which it dealt with apartheid-era human rights violations. The TRC offered forgiveness for atrocities committed during apartheid, provided the transgressors offered full disclosure. During his speech, Tutu said that "we have been approached by governments who think there might just be something they can learn from what happened in South Africa." He acknowledged a considerable amount of irony in this statement, since South Africa was viewed with utter disdain just a few years prior to this. Of the previous situation, Tutu stated that "we (South Africa) could not by any standard have thought to be a virtuous nation." Tutu said South Africa was on the brink of civil war and the country was devastated by violence. "The world watched with wonder and awe as a miracle happened on April 27, 1994, when most of us voted in the land of our birth for the first time." Nelson Mandela was 73 and Tutu was 63 when they voted. Observers wondered how the people could wait in line for hours in order to vote. Tutu said, "My child I have waited a life time -- what are a few more hours?"
Archbishop Tutu gave an inspirational message of hope and forgiveness to a crowd of more than 4,000 at Hamilton College. The audience was made up of Hamilton students, staff and faculty, community leaders, church and school groups, as well as the accepted students of the class of 2004 and their parents. Displaying his wonderful sense of humor, Tutu invited the audience to stand up and cheer as he acknowledged the role the millions of supporters across the U.S. played in ending apartheid.