HARTFORD, Conn. – South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has some simple advice for youth: dream.
“I want to say to young people, dream,” Tutu said.
“You have to go on saying peace is possible,” he said. “Dream that this world can become better.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu in West Hartford, Connecticut (YJ)
Tutu, 81, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his unifying role in the non-violent struggle against apartheid in South Africa. At the time, he was General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches.
Still a powerful figure worldwide in the fight for social justice and peace, he recently returned from a Semester at Sea program where he sailed most of the way around the world with a ship full of college students.
It wasn’t his first voyage. Tutu referenced his four-month journey with about 600 college students during a
2011 visit to Connecticut.
“They are fantastic,” Tutu said.
During the visit, Tutu shared his thoughts about young people in public appearances and a previously unpublished interview with Youth Journalism International.
“I love you and I hug you!” a joyful Tutu told a crowd gathered for a peace walk in West Hartford. “You are
all beautiful; you really don’t know just how beautiful you are.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu talking with YJI reporter Kiernan Majerus-Collins in Hartford, Connecticut. (YJI)
Tutu said he is particularly keen on young people getting involved.
“God is using young people today,” Tutu said, just as God once relied on famous Biblical figures such as Joseph, the youngest of his brothers, and David, also the youngest in his family.
Tutu shared some of his own experiences with young people, recounting the days of apartheid, an institutionalized segregation of the races in South Africa that insured the nation’s white minority controlled the government and most of the money.
He said young people freed South Africa from its racist past, and lauded the college students of that time who pushed their universities to pull investments from South Africa. They made a real difference, he said.
Tutu also spoke of other times when youth made a difference.
“It was young people who were involved in demonstrations,” he said, “and managed to force this country out of the Vietnam War.”
“I doff my cap to you young people,” he said. “I metaphorically take off my cap and say, do all of the things you want to do. Dream.”
Tutu said that young people have an “extraordinary” power to do good for the world.
“I have a great deal of time for young people,” Tutu said. “An oldie like me is going to depart into the sunset, thrilled that the world is in safe hands, the hand of these beautiful, extraordinary young people.”
Tutu said that he has “often been upset with the media” for vilifying young people simply because one goes astray.
“They splash it as if it was representative of all young people,” he said.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a cheerleader for peace. (YJI)
Tutu said he’s seen young Americans working “in remote, isolated villages helping to building classrooms, helping to build clinics.”
Tutu brought a soaring message of hope for the future and reminded young people they are the future and they should not allow anyone to keep them down.
He spoke, for example, of young people on the divided island of Cyprus who are coming together to try to resolve their land’s problems.
He urged people not to allow themselves to be infected with the cynicism of the “oldies.”
Tutu, who called himself a “prisoner of hope,” said there is no option but to believe in peace.
“Imagine if we said it doesn’t matter,” he said. “You have to go on saying, ‘Peace is possible.’ Imagine if it wasn’t.”
Tutu said his own experience with racism helped spur his support for the gay community.
“You don’t choose your sexuality,” he said. “It is a given. For some of us who have been penalized for their ethnicity, it’s almost unthinkable not to say by the side of those who are being clobbered.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is an advocate for peace wherever he goes. (YJI)
Tutu took his message beyond youth.
The planet needs everyone’s attention, according to Tutu.
“We have only this fragile planet home. For goodness sake, let’s cherish it,” Tutu said.
He said that everyone has a responsibility to help our fellow humans and not harm them.
Tutu said that only a small portion of our global “defense budgets” could be used to give food and clean water to people who truly need them.
“God cries!” Tutu said, over the miserable conditions that some live in. We should spread our prosperity, he said. “You can’t be human on your lonesome.”
Tutu said the dreams of young people are God’s dreams.
“Go on dreaming,” he said. “God is looking to you to help make this a better world.”
Mary Majerus-Collins is a Senior Reporter for Youth Journalism International. Youth Journalism International reporters Celeste Kurz, Erez Bittan and Kiernan Majerus-Collins contributed to this story.