Remarks Honoring Archbishop Desmond Tutu by Dr. Robert M. Franklin
Archbishop Tutu, President Massey, Dean Carter, Morehouse family, Regional Council of Churches and other distinguished guests.
n this quiet and crisp morning, there is a great drama unfolding around us. If you are quiet, you can hear the sound of a distant thunder. As we gather in the comfort of this great hall, that thunder is the echo of bombs falling in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This is a season of war, of terror and hate. It is a moment captured well by that son of Morehouse we call, Martin.
In 1967, he spoke words that echo on this crisp morning:
“This hour in history needs a dedicated circle of transformed nonconformists. The saving of our world from pending doom will come not from the actions of a conforming majority but from the creative maladjustment of a transformed minority.”
Today, more than ever before, we need alternatives to violence. The United Nations, the White House and the War Department need more experts in the art of nonviolence and fewer who have advanced degrees in the art of war.
Not long ago, another occupant of the White House, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, a former General and a man of war, looked out and declared, ‘every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold, and not clothed.”
When Dr. King said, you cannot achieve moral ends by immoral means. We cannot kill our way into a just and lasting peace. The notion that we can hunt and kill every terrorist is an epistemological absurdity and a political impossibility. To live in a permanent state of war is a declaration of our failure to puzzle out creative nonviolent alternatives.
But, where shall we find leaders, transformed nonconformists, who are skilled in the art of nonviolence? In a world preoccupied with shocking and awesome displays of technological death, where shall we find them?
When Isaiah wondered, ‘where are the folk who will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks?’
We heard another sound as of thunder…no, it was a still small voice emanating from the southern tip of Africa. The Archbishop stood up and said, here am I, send me.
When Jesus peered over the balcony of eternity and asked, ‘is it possible for you to forgive those who have mistreated you and to pray for those who have oppressed you?’ The Archbishop stood up and said, ‘Lord with man such things may not possible, but with your help, all things are possible.’
The Archbishop and President Nelson Mandela stood up and showed the world the look of moral maturity, moral intelligence, and moral courage. They kept alive the hopes and dreams of the South African people until the rest of the world could catch up and apply the morally necessary but overdue pressures to dismantle the immoral outrage of apartheid.
Archbishop, we hope that you regard Atlanta as your second home because we are audacious enough to claim you as one of us. This red soil has been fertile for many warriors for justice and freedom. But, we need you to teach us the profound example of truth telling and reconciliation. We need to understand your bold words spoken and quoted so often that “without forgiveness, there is no future.”
The Regional Council of Churches joins with Morehouse College in welcoming you back home, as we remember the words of Rabbi Hillel: The world is equally balanced between good and evil, your next act will tip the scale.