Former US president Barack Obama, the nation’s first Black leader, on Sunday hailed late Archbishop Desmond Tutu as a towering figure and “moral compass” who fought against injustice in South Africa and elsewhere.
Tutu, a fellow Nobel Peace laureate, “was a mentor, a friend, and a moral compass for me and so many others,” Obama said in a statement.
“A universal spirit, Archbishop Tutu was grounded in the struggle for liberation and justice in his own country, but also concerned with injustice everywhere,” Obama said, adding that Tutu sought to “find humanity in his adversaries.”
“Michelle and I will miss him dearly,” he said.
Obama in 2009 presented Tutu with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Another former US president and Nobel Peace laureate, Jimmy Carter, issued condolences on the death of the 90-year-old Tutu, a friend whose ministry he said exemplified “love, freedom and compassion.”
“He lived his values in the long struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, in his leadership of the national campaign for truth and reconciliation, and in his role as a global citizen,” Carter, age 97, said in a statement.
“His warmth and compassion offered us a spiritual message that is eternal.”
When Tutu visited the White House in 2009, then-president Obama presented him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for preaching amid teargas and “rallying a people against apartheid.”
“Tribune of the downtrodden, voice of the oppressed, cantor of our conscience, Desmond Tutu possesses that sense of generosity, that spirit of unity, that essence of humanity that South Africans know simply as ‘Ubuntu’,” Obama said at the time.