Sunday, December 26, 2021

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, 1931-2021

I've said before that the two people I am proudest to have met and with whom I've enjoyed short but inspiring conversation are the late Congressman John Lewis, whom I met at an ecumenical student conference in Atlanta in 1967 when he was head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the prospect of his ever serving in Congress seemed remote, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who died today in his beloved homeland, South Africa. I had the good fortune to hear Archbishop Tutu preach at St. James' Church during the early 1980s, and to meet and have conversation with him after the service. I regret that I don't have better recollection of the specifics of my conversations with these two most worthy men, but I know that I came away from them better for the experience.

Perhaps the defining characteristic of Archbishop Tutu was his generosity of spirit, which led him to seek healing and reconciliation following the end of the brutal apartheid regime which he had struggled to overcome. He also showed moral consistency in his opposition to corruption that undermined the government following the transition to full equality of citizenship for all South Africans. I chose the photo above, a profile photo from, because it reflects his intelligence but also hints at his playfulness and sense of humor.

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