WASHINGTON, DC – Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised the recent election of Barack Obama as a “Mandela moment” at an American Program Bureau (APB) event in Washington, DC on November 17, 2008.
Tutu compared the US election to the 1994 election in South Africa, which saw South African civil rights leader Nelson Mandela elected president following 28 years of imprisonment.
Mandela appointed Tutu, who received the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize, as chairman of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, a group that helped heal the scars from decades of Apartheid in South Africa.
His speech to more than 300 top association executives and meeting professionals was the first of what will be a series of special events sponsored by APB in Washington, DC and other locations throughout the United States.
“Racism in many places is still rampant,” he warned, but he called the United States a “fantastic country” and said “you should know how many of us have been inspired” by Obama’s election.
Referring to the famous Martin Luther King “I have a dream” speech, he declared “the dream has come true.”
He also praised Obama’s visit to Berlin during his presidential campaign, where he met with approximately 200,000 Germans, as an indication of his potential to unite the world with messages of change, hope, and prosperity.
Tutu harkened back to his days as a young boy when he picked up a copy of Ebony magazine and was inspired by the story of Jackie Robinson breaking into Major League Baseball.
Tutu admitted he “didn’t know baseball from ping pong” at the time, but he knew this was a symbol of what black people could accomplish and began following the achievements of other prominent role models as he advocated for greater civil rights in South Africa.
Tutu displayed a wry sense of humor, drawing frequent laughs from the audience. “I was told to be brief,” he quipped, “but I am a preacher.”
He drew on many of his personal experiences, including his battle with prostate cancer, to highlight the many blessings that people should be thankful for, tying into the theme of “An Evening of Thanks.”
Tutu closed with a personal message of inspiration to the audience.
“You are a miracle,” he said. “God is so proud of you. Everything belongs to God – He is asking you to help him. God says He wants the world to be a more passionate and more caring world and He can’t do it without your help.”
APB executive vice president Susan Sarfati opened the evening events by describing APB as “a pioneering force in the lecture industry that creates opportunities for people to see the most exciting and popular personalities, hear cutting-edge and controversial ideas, and experience the leaders, activists, and innovators of our day.” APB has a global reach with offices in 13 countries and also offers clients “Teleportec,” a new three-dimensional virtual technology to deliver speakers that is the next-best thing to an in-person presentation. APB chairman & CEO Robert P. Walker announced that the next APB event will be held in Washington, DC on March 19, 2009 and will feature former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.
APB is also planning a series of “Board Briefings” to be launched early next year that will invite small groups of association CEOs to luncheon events with APB speakers. Some of the briefings will also be geared to meeting professionals.