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New York City
June 2003

Archbishop Desmond Tutu Among Honorees at Teachers College, Columbia University

Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and former General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches spoke at this year’s master’s convocation for Teachers College Columbia University. Joining him as honorees were folk singer Pete Seeger and the Reverend James Forbes of Riverside Church.

At a later master’s convocation on the same day and in the same location, filmmaker Ken Burns and civil rights attorney Morris Dees were honored.

Desmond Tutu is a moral authority in the fight against apartheid and winner of the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize. In his long and sometimes lonely journey as a young teacher at Pretoria Bantu Normal College to his work as the head of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission trial, his objective has always been “a democratic society without racial divisions.”

Tutu’s remarkable personal memoir No Future Without Forgiveness, teaches the powerful belief that “we can indeed transcend the conflicts of the past, we can hold hands as we realize our common humanity.”

Pete Seeger’s use of music as a means of speaking out against war, racism, poverty and pollution demonstrates his commitment to using his life to educate and make a difference in the world. The stories he tells through song bring a sense of common humanity and shared social vision and provoke compassion, thought and action. His song “If I Had a Hammer” speaks to the possibilities of constructive social change, and his song “We Shall Overcome” was the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement in America. His willingness to live what he believes was evident in his refusal to cooperate with the House Committee on Un-American Activities when asked to give names of people to be investigated. He risked going to jail for 10 years in order to do what he believed was right. Seeger’s concern for the environment prompted him to establish Clearwater, a volunteer group whose sailboat traveled the length of the Hudson River to educate children about environmental pollution. Thanks to these efforts, the River is becoming safe again for swimming. In composing songs that originate from cultures around the world, he generously gives part of his profits from the song back to the part of the world where the song is from.

In his work as an ordained minister, the Reverend James Forbes has been called a “preacher’s preacher,” teaching others through his message. As the Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary, he has taught others how to be effective messengers. At Riverside Church, where he serves as Senior Minister to a congregation numbering in the thousands, he inspires many to work to help others. He has been honored by Ebony magazine in 1984 and 1993 as one of America’s greatest Black preachers and was recognized in 1996 by Newsweek as one of the twelve most effective preachers in the English-speaking world.

Reverend James Forbes has been called a “preacher’s preacher,” teaching others through his message. As the Joe R. Engle Professor of Preaching at Union Theological Seminary, he has taught others how to be effective messengers. He teaches about religious and political intolerance and encourages his listeners to participate in civic life and to let their voices be heard in a respectful dialogue about the direction of our nation.

Ken Burns has spent more than 20 years making documentary films, bringing history to life for his audiences. The subjects of his films have ranged from American monuments and structures, to government, important historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Susan B. Anthony, the American pastime of baseball, and America’s original art form of Jazz. The quality of his work is such that his films, such as his series on the Civil War, have broken records for public television viewership. Stephen Ambrose, the historian, has said of Burns’ films, “More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source.”

Morris Dees is chief trial counsel for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which he founded in 1971 with attorney Joe Levin. What began as a small civil rights law firm is now internationally known for tolerance education programs, its legal victories against white supremacist groups, its tracking of hate groups, and its sponsorship of the Civil Rights Memorial. He has developed ideas for Teaching Tolerance, the Center’s education project. Through this project, the Center is teaching people about the need for tolerance and racial equality in our country. He has received the Barnard College Medal of Distinction, the University of Alabama Humanitarian Award, and the National Education Association’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award.

Cleveland E. Dodge Medal For Distinguished Service To Education was given to Henry A. McKinnell, Ph.D., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer Inc, the world’s largest pharmaceutical company. Pfizer was founded in New York City in 1849, remains headquartered there, and has grown to become the third most valuable company in the world. Pfizer’s 15,000 research professionals are engaged in the world’s largest privately funded biomedical research effort, backed by an investment of more than $100 million every week. Under Dr. McKinnell, Pfizer has made access to medicine a key company driver, creating partnerships with governments in the U.S. and overseas to provide access to health care for those who cannot afford it. The company has also invested heavily in medical education, including the funding of a state-of-the-art facility in Uganda to train African doctors in the latest therapies to combat HIV. Dr. McKinnell, a 31-year Pfizer colleague, is a member of the President’s Commission on HIV/AIDS, a trustee of the New York Public Library, and a director of ExxonMobil and John Wiley and Sons. He earned his doctorate in finance from Stanford University.#

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