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    Desmond Tutu

May 1, 2014

Ann Curry Interviews Desmond Tutu for The Today Show

Archbishop Desmond Tutu chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which saw 19,000 men, women and children testify about the brutal atrocities they endured under the racial oppression of apartheid. The commission operated according to his principle that “no one is beyond redemption.” He has published a new book about having the capacity to forgive. Below is his interview with NBC’s Ann Curry.

December 9, 2013

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Shares a Memory of Nelson Mandela

The Archbishop discusses what it was like in the early days after Nelson Mandela was released and lived at Bishop’s Court. The Archbishop further describes Nelson Mandela’s character as a leader and as a man. Video footage from the Sir David Frost Interview

December 8, 2013

In Memory of Nelson Mandela

My post today has very few words. Nelson Mandela died yesterday at 95. Here are two beautiful and wise clips about him.

The first video is from CNN and is a retrospective by Christine Amanpour The second, also from CNN, is Mandela in his own words.

Last night, understandably, the media was filled with words remembering and honoring a human being the likes of who appears not once in a lifetime but once every few lifetimes. Some figures genuinely change history because of how evolved, pragmatic, and enlightened they are. Mandela was one of these people. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel resentment and anger and even hate about the years that were taken from him and especially the time as a parent for his children – he was no saint – but he exercised a powerful will to overcome his bitterness. He said that he walked into prison hotheaded and intemperate and came out mature.

It was a miracle that in 1994 rather than a civil war blood bath there was a historic democratic election that united blacks, Indians, and whites. Mandela went from prisoner to President and somehow held together personal loyalty to enemies of the West, like Khadafy and Castro and Arafat who supported the ANC when no one in the West did, while insuring that the post Apartheid South Africa was firmly aligned with the values of freedom and democracy of the West. He was a revolutionary and a traditionalist and perhaps his most profound capacity was his ability to understand and even empathize with the enemy. Mandela is proof that by force of one’s own choice and dignity one can compel even your enemy to respect you.

How do we honor his legacy? Can we be guided by our hopes and not our fears? Can we believe that human beings and countries can change for the better?

Enough words. Mandela once said, “The silence of solitude makes us understand how precious words are and how real speech is in its impact on the way people live and die.”

Jewish Wisdom teaches that the highest form of praise is silence. So I ask this for us to reflect upon: What enables people to become better rather than bitter? Nelson Mandela’s memory will be a blessing but will we be worthy of remembering Nelson Mandela?

Addendum: Not sure you will get this on the mainstream media. My daughter Talia, who lived in Soweto, South Africa for seven weeks this past summer just called me. “Abba, the second I heard Mandela died I felt really really sad and I immediately called my friend Cpho (who lives in Soweto and became Talia’s best friend).” Cpho told Talia that older people who experienced Mandela’s presence and leadership were very somber while the next generation – her generation – were celebrating his life. Such different forms of grieving both of which so respectful and genuine. We live in the very beginning of a world whose boundaries are more permeable than ever in history.

Note:  This article was originally published in The Daily Wisdom, December 6, 2013.

November 15, 2013

Apartheid, Perpetrators and Forgiveness

This video, narrated by Bill Moyers, provides a brief overview of Desmond Tutu’s role in the struggle against Apartheid.  Desmond Tutu, appointed by Nelson Mandela as Chairman of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, shares his thoughts on forgiveness and its effect on the victim and the perpetrator. He has a moving and optimistic discussion.

Visit the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation YouTube Channel

October 7, 2013

Life Lessons Inspired by Desmond Tutu

Note:  This article was originally posted on the Ann Curry Reporting Our World page of NBC News.

Desmond Tutu and Robert V. Taylor, May 2012

Desmond Tutu celebrates his 82nd birthday on October 7th. I’m often asked what I’ve learned from this tireless peacemaker over three decades of knowing him. Alongside the wisdom that his life, work, teaching and spirit exude, five life lessons stand out which are transformative to the life of any person when they are allowed to be in dynamic inter-action.

Undergirding everything I’ve learned is Tutu’s witness to the philosophy of Ubuntu.  It is an African wisdom tradition which says that a person is only a person in the context of others.  Or to put it another way “I am only me because of you.” Everything that he says and does is a reflection of this fundamental belief in our need of one another combined with the teachings of his faith tradition about love, forgiveness and justice.

Trust. Tutu speaks often about his belief that we are made for goodness, in fact he’s even written a book about that. The belief is lived out through a striking willingness to trust others and a sense that when given the chance most people will ultimately make decisions that are good. It is a fundamental trust in the goodness of others.

Fifteen years ago I asked Tutu what made him offer to help me get out of South Africa in 1980—when he barely knew me—to avoid imprisonment for refusing to serve in the military. He thought for a moment then said, “I trusted you and wanted to help.”  This combination of trust in the goodness of others and the willingness to act on that guiding belief create a dynamic, interactive way of life.

Playful Delight. Like his dear friend the Dalai Lama, Tutu has lived with the threat of violence against him and witnessed some of the most wrenching atrocities in the world. At a breakfast conversation I once hosted at which these two men spoke about compassion the audience was mesmerized as they teased and poked one another in the ribs while on stage and then collapsed into peals of laughter.

In the midst of responding to the needs of the world Tutu is grounded in a playful mischievous delight about life that begins with making fun of himself. It is a choice to walk lightly through the world while being fully present to life and others.

Honoring Your Word. In a world of often glib promises I’ve repeatedly witnessed Tutu honoring the commitments he speaks about. In the late nineteen eighties at the height of the anti-apartheid movement I asked him when he might speak in support of LGBT rights. “Once apartheid is overturned” he said without missing a beat. Today he calls the struggle for those rights the moral equivalent of ending apartheid.

There is a theme to how he honors his word. The magnificence and belovedness of every person are, I believe, what drive his insistent words about the need for girl’s education, women’s leadership, the Girl’s Not Brides campaign, the environment and LGBT rights. It is about living an integrated life that honors one another and especially those who are denied equality.

Steadfast Loyalty. The varied expressions of loyalty that I and so many others have experienced and received from Tutu is a reminder of the steadfastness of his friendship with others irrespective of their successes or failures. I’ve come to understand that this gift is only possible because of his profound self-awareness of human foibles and frailty and his heartfelt empathy with others.

Overjoyed by his willingness to write a generous introduction to my recent book, I was completely unprepared for his enthusiasm about travelling to Los Angeles to participate in a book launch event for the same book. It is a reflection of a steadfast loyalty that is another reminder of the Ubuntu wisdom tradition at work.

Grounding Practice. Tutu has engaged many and offended some by declaring that “God is not a Christian.” He understands his God to be more loving, expansive and generous than the wisdom of any one tradition points to. Yet it is his daily practice of celebrating Holy Communion every morning wherever he is that grounds his life and informs it.

I’ve learned that no matter your tradition the ability to engage in a regular practice of meditative or prayerful mindfulness each day is foundational to being an aware participant in your own life and the human family. The particulars of what kind of practice you choose are less important than the practice itself.

While I’m profoundly grateful for all that I have learned from Tutu over the decades I am not unique in learning such life lessons from him. These five things are accessible to anyone wanting to live an integrated mindful life in the spirit of Ubuntu.  Above all, they reflect Tutu’s generosity of heart, mind and spirit. It is a generous way of living that beckons any of us.

October 5, 2013

3rd Annual Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town, South Africa

You are invited to take part in a series of events occurring in South Africa to mark the celebration of Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 82nd Birthday. Archbishop Tutu’s birthday is on Mon. October 7th. We encourage you to send the Archbishop birthday greetings using the Twitter hashtag #Tutu82bday.

Highlights include an evening keynote speech from former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan speaking at the 3rd Annual Tutu International Peace Lecture in Cape Town, South Africa and all-day Peace Symposium with Archbishop Tutu, special guests from around the world and leaders of Tutu-named organizations.

Monday, October 7, 2013: You are invited to watch a live streaming video of Mr. Kofi Annan’s speech broadcasted on SABC’s (South Africa’s Broadcasting Company’s) website on Oct. 7, 2013 at 7PM in Cape Town (GMT+2)  or 1pm EDT in New York.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013: Desmond, Leah & Mpho Tutu, Rev. Robert Taylor and other conversation participants will participate in the Tutu Legacy Foundation’s first international “Ubuntu Train” peace symposium for representatives of Tutu named organizations.

This live stream should run on Tues 8 October from 2-3:30pm (Cape Town time) which translates [8am-9:30am NY EDT & 5am-6:30am PDT].  The link for the live stream is:


Please note Archbishop Tutu will be opening the session at 2pm (Cape Town Time) and Robert Taylor will be one of the speakers.

You can participate in a Twitter chat by sending your questions and comments to the Twitter hashtag is #Tutu4peace2013.  We will be engaging & sharing #Tutu4peace2013 comments from 4pm-4:45pm (Cape Town time). The topic is Creating a Better Tomorrow.