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Speaking Out

Tutu as Commencement Speaker

I would like to express my sincere revulsion at the selection of Desmond Tutu to speak at the graduation ceremony this year [Almanac November 5, 2002]. Historically, Desmond Tutu may have made some amazing contributions to South Africa. However, his recent speeches and articles leave much to be desired. Tutu has described Al-Qaeda members as "not lunatic fringe [but rather] ... quite intelligent.".

Tutu has made overtly racist statements such as "I am not even anti-white, despite the madness of that group." Tutu supports the movement to divest from Israel. Tutu has said that people are unwilling to criticize Israel "because the Jewish lobby is powerful--very powerful."

Tutu is the essence of a racist and an anti-Semite as well as being an apologist for terrorists. Is this really who we want speaking at a Penn graduation?

--Ariel Soiffer, CAS '00


As I told another member of the Penn community [Almanac December 16, 2002] who wrote a letter objecting to the choice of Archbishop Desmond Tutu as Commencement Speaker, Archbishop Tutu was selected to receive an honorary degree at Penn and to speak at Commencement in recognition of his profound contributions to human rights and of his visionary leadership in healing a society wracked by injustice and violence. The honor Penn will bestow upon Archbishop Tutu does not imply an endorsement of every one of his public statements, only of his undeniable and fundamental role in ending apartheid in South Africa and overseeing the work of that country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Given the great diversity of the Penn community, it is unlikely that each member will approve of all honorary degree recipients. The criterion for selecting the awardees ensures, however, that they are all most worthy of the honor.

--Leslie Laird Kruhly, Secretary

Speaking Out welcomes reader contributions. Short, timely letters on University issues will be accepted by Thursday at noon for the following Tuesday's issue, subject to right-of-reply guidelines. Advance notice of intention to submit is appreciated. --Eds.


  Almanac, Vol. 49, No. 20, February 4, 2003