On my last day in Cape Town, South Africa my alarm chimed at 5 AM. For me, being up at such an early hour would usually mean a trip to the airport to visit my clients in D.C. or Boston, but today was different – in the best possible way. Today was the day that I would meet and interview the esteemed Bishop Tutu.
It was a huge honor to share space with Bishop Tutu, who is an inspiring and beloved religious figure. He has a powerful charisma and infectious sense of humor that is matched only by his intelligence and genuine caring for other human beings.
The scope of achievements Bishop Tutu has accomplished during his lifetime are too numerous to mention, however I wanted to briefly touch on a couple of the most notable roles he’s played:
- He is the recipient of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize for his contribution to the liberation struggle in 1978, when he became the first black secretary of the South African Council of Churches. As a dynamic leader of this council, Desmond Tutu’s goal was for “a democratic and just society without racial segregation.”
- Following the 1976 Soweto protests, during which Hector Peterson F.E.T. School’s namesake was killed, there was a country-wide uprising against apartheid. It’s from this point on that Bishop Tutu became a supporter of the economic boycott of his country, which played a significant part in dismantling the apartheid regime.
- As the moral conscience of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa, described Tutu as “sometimes strident, often tender, never afraid and seldom without humor. Desmond Tutu’s voice will always be the voice of the voiceless.”
Our meeting with Bishop Tutu began with a private service at the St. Georges Cathedral, which is located in the central business district in Cape Town. Being Anglican, but perhaps not attending church as much as I should, it was interesting to compare and contrast the services from my native home of Australia. The service was relatively informal and the advent of humor was somewhat refreshing compared with the more traditional services I am accustomed to.
While you might think that it would be intimidating to meet Bishop Tutu, I found him to be very down to earth and approachable. After the church service, we headed to his favorite local cafe for breakfast and a well-earned coffee. It was then onto the interview.
I will always remember Tutu’s accessibility and willingness to be a part of the cause to help raise awareness of the Bridges to Understanding charity. He responded to my questions with insight that demonstrated a solid understanding of the issues with education and impoverished communities within South Africa.
At the conclusion of the interview, Bishop Tutu, who is somewhat shorter than I am, leaned up and whispered in my ear, “Now, I must go. Thank you for helping South Africa.”
With a wave from his bodyguard to signal the need to continue moving, we said our goodbyes and he walked off to his waiting vehicle.