When Archbishop Desmond Tutu took the stage, he greeted the thousands in attendance by saying “Good evening.”
When the crowd replied half-heartedly, he stepped back, and true to form, he gave them another chance, and the crowd responded adequately.
“You’re fast learners,” he told them.
And that’s surely not the only lesson he hopes they left the Sun Dome with.
Tutu, 74, urged peace and forgiveness throughout his hour-long speech on Thursday night, saying that “forgiveness is a gift.”
“Forgiveness does not believe once a murderer, always a murderer,” he said.
Before she visited South Africa last May, senior Kyna Fasnacht didn’t know much about the charismatic Tutu, who grew up in South Africa.
She learned about South Africa’s dark apartheid history and found inspiration in the fact that when black people were granted rights, they did not retaliate with violence.
“If he can teach people that got stepped on to forgive the people that stepped on them, then that’s an amazing lesson to pass on,” said Fasnacht, who arrived at the Sun Dome six hours before the speech began and was the first in line. “The world would be a better place if more people thought like that.”
Though his theological connections are well known, Tutu’s messages transcend religious beliefs.
“I don’t care how the message gets out there,” said Val Gallina, a USF alumna who said she’s an atheist. “Just as long as it does.”
Nahla Al-Arian, wife of former USF professor Sami Al-Arian, visited Tutu before the speech to give him poetry written by her husband during his incarceration.
“I think there is a lot of similarities between his struggle in South Africa and our struggle in Palestine,” she said.
Tutu, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, thinks today’s world is too concentrated on wars and military.
“Look at military budgets,” he said. “If we just take a miniscule portion of that, people can drink and people can eat.”
He then connected that to the War on Terror.
“We know there’s no way we’re going to win the War on Terror,” he said. “As long as there are conditions in the world that make people desperate.”
Tutu also emphasized reconciliation. He said the United States needs to look at dark aspects of its past, namely slavery and the treatment of Native Americans.
“There is a kind of cover-up that we don’t really look at for fear of what we might see,” he said. “You need to come to terms with the legacy of slavery. You have to look at the dispossession of those who were the first inhabitants of this land.
“The wound has not healed. Take the risk and open the wound. This great country would then reach tremendous heights.”