Archbishop Tutu inspires St. John's community in Shrewsbury
By Bonnie Adams
Shrewsbury- For decades, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has been one of the most prominent and vocal advocates in the fight for equality and justice for not only those in his native South Africa but around the globe. Now at age 79, the archbishop has decided to step out of the spotlight and curtail his public schedule. To the delight and honor of the St. John's High School community, the esteemed archbishop, as one of his last public appearances, agreed to speak at the school May 23. And from the moment he entered the school's gymnasium, Tutu enthralled the capacity crowd of 1,110 with his unique combination of grace, humility, humor and inspiration.
Before his speech, the archbishop held a short press conference where he made readily apparent that although he was the honored guest of the evening, the night was really a celebration of the school's students and the spirit of the world's youth in general.
“It's just fantastic how young people are,” he said. “I am always amazed at young people who do amazing things.”
He lamented the fact that the media often chose to highlight the trials and tribulations of youth who get into trouble instead of those who do good deeds in the world.
“Those who go astray are very few,” he added, “but with the pressures young people face nowadays, it's amazing how many don's.”
“Go on dreaming – the sky is the limit,” he said in a response to a question on what his message to today's youth would be. “Reach for the stars. God depends on you. The world is being left in the hands of youth like yourselves.”
That call to action was repeated several times in his address to the audience, entitled “God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Times.” Using a combination of Bible stories, personal tales and humorous quips, he stressed time and again the importance of ubuntu. This philosophy, a cornerstone of his work, emphasizes the essence of being human, that humanity is one, and therefore all are deserving of respect, caring and kindness.
Trillions of dollars are spent each year, the archbishop noted, “on instruments of self destruction.” How much better would it be, he questioned, if even only a portion of those monies were used instead to help the many children in the world who were suffering from a lack of basic needs such as immunizations, food and clean water.
After the Archbishop spoke, three students were given the honor of asking him a question. One of those students, Michael Smalanskas, asked Tutu how today's youth, such as himself, could help to continue to promote the unity that the archbishop had worked so hard for.
“I would say to dream,” Tutu replied. “Dream of what seems impossible. So many things that seemed impossible, happened.”
“Go and go on,” he added. “Say I will do my bit to treat everyone as someone special. Be God's carrier.”
Prior to the speech, the school's headmaster Michael Welch noted that the archbishop's visit was the culmination of six years of hard work and networking by Frederick and Sarah Curtis.
“We are so honored to have the archbishop here with us,” he added. “It's electric.”
Frederick Curtis, a 1985 graduate of the school, said that he and his wife were delighted and overwhelmed at the support they had gotten in their quest to bring the archbishop to St. John's.
“Sarah and I hope that [Tutu's] presence will inspire the students on how one person can truly change the world,” he added.
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