Outspoken South African human rights advocate Archbishop Desmond Tutu will speak at Hill Auditorium tonight at 7:30 p.m. as this year’s recipient of the University’s Wallenberg Medal.
John Godfrey, chair of the Wallenberg Committee, said in an e-mail interview that the Wallenberg Executive Committee selected Tutu to speak because he exemplifies the medal’s criteria, which include integrity, heroism and self-sacrifice in protecting the prosecuted. He called Tutu a “powerful and fearless spokesman against the cruel, brutal and inhumane apartheid regime in South Africa that for many decades waged a ruthless campaign to subjugate the non-white population.”
“He continues to be a major voice for social justice, human rights and reconciliation around the world, and to speak on behalf of the poor and persecuted,” Godfrey said.
Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, first gained world recognition in the 1980s for his commitment to nonviolent resistance against apartheid policies in South Africa. He was also the first black South African Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town. After the end of the apartheid regime, Nelson Mandela appointed Tutu as chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the atrocities that took place during the apartheid years.
Today, Tutu speaks out on a variety of topics including poverty, health care and democracy, with a special focus on developing countries.
No tickets are required to attend Wednesday night’s lecture. Wendy Ascione, one of the event’s planners, advised students to arrive at Hill well before the doors open at 7 p.m.
The University plans to broadcast the lecture to across the street in the Modern Languages Building to accommodate the crowd.
Past recipients of the Wallenberg Medal include Paul Rusesabagina, a Rwandan hotel manager, was awarded the medal in 2005 for his brave actions that saved more than 1,000 refugees during the Hutu-Tutsi conflict; Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader was recognized in 1994 for his work for nonviolence, human rights and peace; and Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel in 1990.
The medal honors University alum Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat and a 1935 graduate of the College of Architecture. During the last years of World War II, Wallenberg saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis by giving them passports, shelter and protection. According to Godfrey, the medal is awarded annually to “people who, through actions and personal commitment, represent the highest standards of commitment to defending humanitarian values.”