I Am Because We Are

As many of you already know, an honored and revered shipmate on our voyage around the world with Semester at Sea is none other than Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Even a five second interaction with this man is enough to brighten your week. We and our shipmates have enjoyed a wonderful amount of extra time with him over the past week as we prepare for our visit to South Africa, his homeland. Over the past few days, we have had the honor of listening to him talk candidly about South Africa, his personal experiences living under and working against apartheid, his membership in The Elders, and how he and Leah came on this voyage because they love to see students change and grow. He even sang the National Anthem of South Africa with the shipboard choir! Just like the country it honors, the anthem is multi-lingual, with the first stanza being in isiXhosa and isiZulu, the second in Sesotho, the third in Afrikaans, followed by a final stanza in English. It’s beautiful!

National Anthem of South Africa from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

The Archbishop’s perfect comedic timing is legendary, and he also has the single most infectious laugh we’ve ever heard. His most common themes seem to be the interconnectedness of humankind — the African concept of Ubuntu, which means “I am because we are” — and the joyful and energizing spirit of young people. Every time he gives a talk it’s brimming with wisdom, humor and profundity. What kinds of things does he talk to us about? Below please find a couple of little nuggets from yesterday’s lecture in Global Studies class:

  • “If you remember nothing else I say, remember this. Don’t let people impose stereotypes on you or other people. And don’t lose your passion to fight against them when they do.”
  • “There is no such thing as benign racism. There is no such thing as benign sexism. There is no such thing as benign homophobia! Anything that makes a human child of God no longer feel like a child of God is nothing short of diabolical.”
  • “In the eighties, I wanted to meet with your president, Ronald Reagan. He was not so eager to see me. [giggle, giggle] So, I got a Nobel Peace Prize. Do you know? It is amazing the doors a Nobel Peace Prize can open! [hearty laugh]”
  • When asked for his best piece of advice for young people today, he replied “Don’t be…don’t let your idealism be crushed by the cynicism of us oldies.”

There are many reasons to love him, but one of our favorite things about Arch (he prefers to be called either Arch or Father) is the way he exits a room. He never ever walks out, but always dances…and can he ever bust a move!

Dancing Exit from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

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