"Dream About A Better World"

December 17, 2008

In surprise visit to EHS, Archbishop Desmond Tutu praises youth who work for peace, justice

Dec. 11—The first time The Rev. Gideon Pollach met Archbishop Desmond Tutu, he was 11 years old, singing in the choir at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

“He signed my hymnal,” Episcopal’s head chaplain recalls. Pollach was moved by Tutu’s story; that meeting, he says, “was a turning point, one of the moments of my life that compelled me and propelled me towards ordained ministry in the church.” The hymnal still sits on his bookcase as one of his most treasured possessions.

This week, Archbishop Tutu visited Episcopal High School, largely due to Pollach’s work. “To be able to give our kids that same gift” he received when he was a child was “a joy,” Rev. Pollach says.

The former Archbishop of Capetown, South Africa, is a global figure and a symbol for equality, tolerance, and change. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work against apartheid, South Africa’s oppressive system of racial segregation, through peaceful protests and the encouragement of divestment. After apartheid ended, Tutu chaired South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated apartheid-era crimes. His commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation became a model for post-conflict reconstruction.

Speaking at Thursday chapel, Tutu praised the role of young people in bringing change. He recalled college students protesting so that their colleges and universities would divest from South Africa, and young Americans working all over the world through the Peace Corps.

"God uses young people,” he said, citing biblical figures such as Joseph, David, Jeremiah, and even Mary. “God says, ‘Help me to realize my dream, that my children will know they are members of one family: the human family.’”

The Archbishop has continued to work for peace and justice, and is a member of The Elders, a group of leaders including Nelson Mandela, Ela Bhatt, and Jimmy Carter who work for change globally.

The most powerful moment of the service came when the Archbishop spoke of the intrinsic value of every human being. “God tells us that none of us is an afterthought, none of us is an accident,” he said. Human worth, he said, is “intrinsic. It is not something you earn, not something that is bestowed on you—it is something that, as it were, comes with the package. And so it is universal.” Those who discriminate on the basis of color, nationality, or other differences are falling prey to “a horrific irrelevance…it was on this basis that so much suffering was visited on God’s children.”

Billy Hackenson ’09 was amazed by the visit. “I never would have thought I’d be in the presence of a man who changed the face of the world and the path we take.”

The day before Tutu’s visit, without knowing he was coming to campus, social studies teacher Betsy Metcalf ’00 showed her “Finding Hope in Africa” class an interview with the Archbishop and told them that he was “truly the most loving, humble, forgiving, and intelligent man alive.” She was stunned and touched to find him praying in Callaway Chapel before the service. “The most admirable thing about Archbishop Tutu is that he lives how he preaches. He chose to come to EHS because he loves people. Tutu had nothing to gain by being here; he did it out of love and service to others.”

Pollach agrees. “Not often do we get to meet a living saint, and I think everyone who came in contact with him could see the light of God flowing through him. He shone with the very light of God that inspires and enlightens the world. “

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