I shook hands with Archbishop Desmond Tutu!

Despite of the bad weather – Autumn seems to have started here in the North of the Netherlands – I had quite a good day. Not necessarily royal, but oh well, such a great person and with royal connections as well.

Living in a city with a university means that once in a while real celebrities visit town. Today, Monday 24 September, that was former Archbishop Desmond Tutu of the Anglican Church in Cape Town, who pays a visit to The Netherlands from 18 to 26 September. He received an honorary doctorate in Theology and Religious Studies of the University of Groningen for his work as chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and his great social merits in the area of health care.The opening speech was followed by a speech by Professor Dr. George van Kooten, Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies. He praised the big contribution of Tutu to the peaceful transition to a free South Africa without Apartheid. Archbishop Tutu showed himself very honoured with the honorary doctorate. During a short ceremony he received the robes going with it.
Of course also he was to give a speech. The theme of his speech was “Who can forgive, can transcend himself.” During his speech he immediately spoke about “my university”. He said only to have been the captain of an extraordinary team, and said to be in Groningen in name of all of them.
There were musical intermezzos between the speeches by student choirs. And at the end several surprises followed. The known Dutch pianist Laurens van Rooyen played “A song for piano”. And at the end a special choir sang the national hymne of South Africa.The ceremony had taken about half an hour longer than expected. As soon as possible people started queuing to congratulate Tutu personally. Only part of them managed to, including me. I can now proudly say that I once shook the hand of Desmond Tutu (no evidence unfortunately). Just before it was my turn I heard the security saying “five minutes”. How lucky I was, as only a few people standing behind me also got the opportunity to shake hands. Despite of having caught a cold in the past days, Tutu seemed to have enjoyed his hours in Groningen. I am certain he would have loved to stay a bit longer himself, but unfortunately he has quite a busy schedule in the Netherlands.

Photos and Copyright: Netty Leistra

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