Archbishop Desmond Tutu led with empathy, compassion, boundless good humor, faith in God, and unshakeable determination. He inspired the people of South Africa to embrace the possibility of reconciliation, to bravely uncover and accept the full truth about the systemic horrors they had endured, and to use honesty about the past as a prerequisite for forgiveness in the present and a foundation stone for a brighter future.
He helped change the course of history in South Africa and in doing so aroused hope throughout the world that a shared commitment to justice and dignity can heal the toxic legacies of group hatred, cruelty, and exploitation that bedevil humanity.
He always recognized that moral leadership must be paired with tangible action. He helped build an anti-apartheid movement that forced leaders across all aspects of global society – from governments, to businesses, to academia – to look inward and realign their values with the actions and activities of their organizations.
It was an honor to be one of those who played a small role in supporting Archbishop Tutu in this movement within the U.S. government and to stand by his side in urging Harvard and other American universities to divest from Apartheid stocks.
In recent years, he gave voice to the unjust reality of the climate crisis, which he deemed “the apartheid of our times.” In helping to foster the fossil fuel divestment movement, he focused a spotlight on the injustices facing poor and marginalized communities as a result of the climate emergency.
As we mourn his loss, we should make his work a model for all of those struggling for justice, equality, and opportunity. I will miss my dear friend. My prayers are with his beloved Leah, their children, grandchildren, and family.