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Desmond Tutu is a South African Anglican cleric who is known for his role in the opposition to apartheid in South Africa.
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In 1984, Desmond Tutu received the Nobel Peace Prize "not only as a gesture of support to him and to the South African Council of Churches of which he is leader, but also to all individuals and groups in South Africa who, with their concern for human dignity, fraternity and democracy,
incite the admiration of the world." He was the first South African to receive the award since Albert Luthuli in 1961. Tutu's receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize transformed South Africa's anti-apartheid movement into a truly international force with deep sympathies all across the globe. "It opened doors which was important for our people," he said about the award. "It was important for our people at that point in our history because we were tending to go off the radar screen and this brought us back spectacularly." The award also elevated Tutu to the status of a renowned world leader. As he himself put it, "You get the Nobel Peace Prize and you say the same thing that you said before you got the prize and now everybody thinks, 'Oh, dear, the oracle has spoken.'"
In 1985, Tutu was appointed the Bishop of Johannesburg, and a year later he became the first black person to hold the highest position in the South African Anglican Church when he was chosen as the Archbishop of Cape Town. In 1987, he was also named the president of the All Africa Conference of Churches, a position he held until 1997. In no small part due to Tutu's eloquent advocacy and brave leadership, in 1993 South African apartheid finally came to an end, and in 1994 South Africans elected Nelson Mandela as their first black president. The honor of introducing the new president to the nation fell to Tutu. He recalled that in that triumphant moment he whispered to God, "If I die now, it would be almost the perfect moment. This is the theme for which we had all been waiting for." President Mandela appointed Tutu to head a Truth and Reconciliation Commission tasked with investigating and reporting on the atrocities committed by both sides in the struggle over apartheid.
Tutu married a woman named Leah Nomalizo on July 2, 1955. They have four children and remain married today. Although he officially retired from public life in the late 1990s, Tutu continues to advocate for social justice and equality across the globe. In 2007, he joined The Elders, a group of seasoned world leaders including Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter and others, who meet to discuss ways to promote human rights and world peace.
Desmond Tutu stands among the world's foremost human rights activists. Like Nelson Mandela, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., his teachings reach beyond the specific causes for which he advocated to speak for all oppressed peoples' struggles for equality and freedom. Perhaps what makes Tutu so inspirational and universal a figure is his unshakable optimism in the face of overwhelming odds and his limitless faith in the ability of human beings to do good. "Despite all of the ghastliness in the world, human beings are made for goodness," he once said. "The ones that are held in high regard are not militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place."
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