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Human Rights Activist Urges in Campus Lecture: Look Beyond Sight, Stereotypes to
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Human Rights Activist Urges in Campus Lecture: Look Beyond Sight, Stereotypes to Find Common Ground

Growing up the daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu in apartheid South Africa, Nontombi Naomi Tutu has experienced many opportunities and challenges in her life, none more important than finding her unique place in the world.

She has taken up the challenge by raising her voice as a champion for the dignity of all, addressing differences head on to find the common ground–that which is inherent to all peoples regardless of race, gender, creed, culture, sexual orientation and other stereotypical facades.

Tutu delivered the Notre Dame College 2013 Abrahamic Center's Distinguished Lecture on campus to more than 600 students, faculty, staff, trustees and members of the community. An activist for human rights and an advocate for tolerance and inclusion among all people, she spoke on "Striving for Justice: Seeking Common Ground."

Often using humor to soften the serious subject matter that is both her passion and a byproduct of her upbringing, education and experiences, she delivered her key message: If humans are to expect for a better world, if humans are ever going to find justice, they must look at the whole person–in every person–to find their shared humanity.

If people do not seek this shared humanity–relentlessly–they are robbing each other of ever finding real and lasting peace for themselves and peace in the world, she said.

Tutu used examples from her own life as well as political and social arenas from around the world. Key to her presentation was her focus on the importance of not using a pursuit of common ground as an attempt to impose uniformity on others. According to Tutu, seeking common ground does not mean trying to pretend we are all exactly alike. Rather it is about seeing how different experiences, gifts, challenges and talents can be the basis of a true appreciation of a shared humanity.

The value that people are all capable of achieving with effort comes from going beyond labels and listening and learning about others they encounter– the humanity of the "other," whomever the other may be, she said.