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Breakfast with Archbishop Desmond Tutu

It’s not often that you get to have breakfast with a Nobel Peace Prize winner. However, on our current voyage around the world, it happens all the time. Many members of the shipboard community have already had the privilege of sharing a meal with His Grace, Archbishop Desmond Tutu. I had the good fortune to share breakfast with him recently, and was deeply touched by the experience.

The unspoken protocol on the ship is that the Archbishop should choose his own table, but if there are additional seats available, it’s perfectly fine to join him.  After six of us (including the Archbishop, myself, one student, and three members of the Unreasonable at Sea community) had settled into a corner booth in the Garden Lounge, we soon left the small talk behind and dove right into a conversation that was both dynamic and inspiring. During our forty minutes together we touched on a wide range of topics from the Archbishop’s passion for Semester at Sea to his work with The Elders and their advocacy on important issues in Sudan, Cyprus, and Palestine. We talked about God, and global innovation, and the challenges of providing effective international aid to those in need. His brilliance, warmth and curiosity about our lives was evident throughout the conversation.

“Isn’t it a shame that the young have to grow old?,” Archbishop Tutu asked us at one point, shaking his head. He explained that one of the reasons he loves sailing with Semester at Sea is because he is invigorated by the students and their enthusiasm to change the world. When we asked him how he channels the youthful energy he gains here on board, he replied, “On you. I hope I can inspire you to go on. Don’t allow yourself to become cynical or tell yourself that the world is unchangeable. Look at South Africa,” he said with a smile. He reminded us that much of the success of the anti-apartheid movement was because young people all over the world, in universities like Berkeley and elsewhere, forced others to take notice. And while he agreed that there are indeed major difficulties facing the world today, he assured us that “good will prevail in the end.”

Each of us left the conversation with a different take-away for our own lives, but we were all undoubtedly inspired. Student, Amee Covarrubias from the University of California, Riverside, later wrote on her blog, “this is a conversation that I will tell my children and grandchildren about.” The Spring 2013 voyage is incredibly fortunate to have Archbishop Desmond Tutu sailing with us for eleven weeks, and I know we’re all looking forward to soaking up more of his infinite wisdom and infectious laughter over future meals together before he disembarks in South Africa.

Photo by Danny Askew, Unreasonable Media

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