If I had spent the last three decades fighting apartheid, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, and campaigning against AIDS, homophobia, and poverty, I’d need a break too.
Desmond Tutu, a former Anglican archbishop and champion of South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement, celebrated his official retirement from public life today, on his 79th birthday.
“The time has now come to slow down, to sip Rooibos tea with my beloved wife in the afternoons, to watch cricket, to travel to visit my children and grandchildren, rather than to conferences and conventions and university campuses,” Tutu said.
President Obama, who awarded Tutu the Congressional Medal of Freedom last year, congratulated Tutu in a written statement, listing the Nobel Laureate’s lengthy repertoire of accomplishments.
“For decades he has been a moral titan—a voice of principle, an unrelenting champion of justice, and a dedicated peacemaker. … We will miss his insight and his activism, but will continue to learn from his example.”
The BBC put together this set of anecdotes ranging from people who knew Tutu well to brief acquaintances. They’re all touching. My favorite is by a man who changed his name in honor of his hero:
“I took the name Desmond when I was a kid, after I came across him while reading Newsweek magazines in the early Nineties, because I liked his principles and all that described this great man. And today, I do not regret being called Desmond.”