Tutu calls for debt forgiveness for poorest countries

As members of the world’s family, affluent nations should forgive the debt of Third World nations, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu told Bates College graduates, family and friends during commencement exercises Monday, May 29.

Citing the year 2000 as a biblical “jubilee year,” Tutu, archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, asked those gathered: “How can we allow some of our sisters and brothers in so-called Third World countries to groan under the burden of unpayable debt? I dream of a time when all my children will say, “Yes, we will support and work for the cancellation of debt.

“I want to say that I have been to many very poverty stricken countries,” Tutu said. “It has been an incredible experience when one is there to see quite a few young people, especially from the United States, working away in remote, obscure villages where there was no chance of television or newspaper reports.”

He said that while media attention often is drawn to negative stories involving youth violence and substance abuse, broad generalizations should be avoided. “I have a great deal of time for young people,” Tutu said. He recalled how the concerns of American young people on college campuses in the 1980s created political pressure that helped end apartheid in South Africa.

Many young people, Tutu said, realize what their elders sometimes forget: “We belong together. We are family in a family that has no outsiders.”

A crowd of more than 2,500 attended the ceremonies in front of historic Coram Hall on the college’s main quadrangle. Bates President Donald W. Harward conferred bachelor’s degrees on 467 graduates.

Joining Tutu as honorary degree recipients were publisher and human rights activist Robert L. Bernstein (doctor of humane letters); contemporary dance choreographer Trisha Brown (doctor of fine arts); scientist and educator Shirley Mahaley Malcom (doctor of science); and psychologist and scholar Beverly Daniel Tatum (doctor of humane letters).

View Comments