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Obama honours Desmond Tutu

Desmond TutuDesmond Tutu, former Archbishop of South Africa, Nobel Peace Laureate and Fellow and Alumnus of King’s, has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

Barack Obama bestowed the medal on Tutu and 15 others praised as ‘agents of change’. The Medal is given to individuals who have made ‘an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, or world peace, or cultural or other significant public or private endeavours’. 

Desmond Tutu is regarded as one of the great civil rights activists for his leadership in the fight against the South African apartheid system. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work as Secretary General of the South African Council of Churches to end apartheid, and he chaired the Peace & Reconciliation Commission in South Africa in the 1990s.  

He took his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees at King’s in the 1960s. He was Visiting Professor in Post-Conflict Societies at King’s in 2004 and has been a Fellow of King’s since 1978. He’s also a regular visitor to the College. Obama described Tutu as ‘tribune of the down-trodden, voice of the oppressed, canter of our conscience’.  

About the Presidential Medal of Freedom
First awarded in 1946, it’s a badge in the form of five gold eagles around a white enamel star with a red pentagon behind it. Within the star is a blue disc with 13 smaller gold stars (taken from the Great Seal of the United States). Past winners include Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali, Pope John Paul II, Walt Disney, Simon Wiesenthal, Nelson Mandela, and astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Buzz Aldrin. At this year’s ceremony other recipients alongside Desmond Tutu included British scientist Stephen Hawking, tennis player Billie Jean King and former Irish President Mary Robinson.

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