UCT honorary graduate Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu received the US's highest civilian honour, its Presidential Medal of Freedom, from American President Barack Obama at a White House ceremony on Wednesday, 12 August.
Obama praised Tutu for his unflinching devotion to his calling and the fight for freedom in apartheid South Africa. "Later, when a free South Africa needed a heart big enough to forgive its sins, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was called to serve once more," Obama said.
In turn, Tutu dedicated his Medal to his fellow South Africans. "I am standing out only because millions of my compatriots are carrying me on their shoulders," he said in a statement.
Tutu was one of 16 international luminaries to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Recipients included microloan pioneer and Nobel peace laureate Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, British scientist Stephen Hawking, former Irish president Mary Robinson, screen legend Sidney Poitier and tennis icon Billie Jean King.
In addition to receiving an honorary doctorate from UCT in 1993, Tutu is also a patron of UCT's Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, which provides antiretroviral therapy to public-sector patients in Nyanga and Masiphumelele. He is also a regular visitor to the UCT campus, in recent times delivering the Steve Biko Memorial Lecture and joining students to celebrate the 80th anniversary of Smuts Hall residence.
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On Sunday, 26 December 2021, the University of Cape Town learned of the passing of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, 90. We say goodbye to a man who taught us the power of joy to fight injustice and evil.
“Archbishop Emeritus Tutu, as he graciously aged, never lost his vision for a just and free South Africa.”
– Archbishop Emeritus Njongonkulu Ndungane
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