Wallenberg Medal Ceremony
October 29, 2008
The awarding of the Wallenberg Medal is a celebrated moment in the life of the University of Michigan.
It is a modest gesture by the University in contrast to the profound courage and strength of those we honor – individuals who have made great personal sacrifices to secure the dignity and well-being of their fellow citizens.
The full spirit of such humanitarianism is difficult to capture in one evening, and tonight is no exception with our honoring of Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Just as Raoul Wallenberg recognized the devastation and inhumanity of Hitler’s madness, Archbishop Desmond Tutu was an eyewitness to the brutality and folly of South Africa’s apartheid.
Where Raoul Wallenberg toiled underground to save countless Jewish lives, Archbishop Tutu raised his voice to tell the world of black lives being lost to racism, poverty, and sheer brutality. He rightly called apartheid “evil and unchristian.”
Both men placed themselves at great personal risk to help others. In doing so, they not only rescued individuals from violence and death, they showed society the futility of intolerance, and the timbre of courage and decency.
Archbishop Tutu’s powerful voice continues to resonate throughout a world fragmented by race, by politics, by income, and by religion. His passionate messages of equality and peace cause people to think and, more importantly, his words inspire people to act.
Archbishop Tutu, you are ceaseless in using the bully pulpit to advance justice and democracy. Your leadership on the world stage has helped to transform the future of South Africa and her children, but you have not limited yourself to geographic boundaries. Rather, you are a model citizen of the world, and it is our privilege to award you the University of Michigan’s Wallenberg Medal.