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'Fresh Air' remembers Archbishop Desmond Tutu

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Today, we put our holiday week series on pause to remember Desmond Tutu. He died Sunday at age 90 for two decades. He was one of South Africa's most outspoken opponents of apartheid and then helped lead the country in the transition from apartheid to democracy. We're going to feature interviews with him from both of those periods.

Tutu became the first Black secretary general of the South African Council of Churches in 1978, representing about 13 million South African Christians, about 80% of whom were Black. He organized the council into a vehicle for anti-apartheid protest, which led to a government investigation of the council. In 1988, the council's headquarters were destroyed by a bomb planted by the government. Tutu also took on the work of traveling around the world, speaking out against apartheid and advocating for sanctions. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and soon after became the first Black bishop of Johannesburg. In '86, he became archbishop of Cape Town.

After apartheid ended and Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president, Mandela asked Tutu to chair South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into the crimes of apartheid. Let's start with the interview I recorded with Tutu in 1984, shortly before he was chosen as the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GROSS: Bishop Tutu, I want to welcome you to FRESH AIR. It's an honor to have you here.

DESMOND TUTU: Thank you very much.

GROSS: I know that you spent several years studying in Europe. When you first got out of South Africa, did you start to see the apartheid system differently than when you had been living within it?

TUTU: It was an incredible experience of liberation. One doesn't quite know just how much you get conditioned living in an oppressive system. And it was just marvelous being treated as a human being for the first time. And one saw just how awful the apartheid system was in making many of God's children, because they were Black, often begin to doubt that they were God's children.

GROSS: You were a teacher before you entered the clergy. Why did you decide to become a minister after being a teacher for several years?

TUTU: The South African government introduced in 19 - in the 1950s something called Bantu education. Now, in South Africa, there are four different educational systems - one for whites, one for those who are called coloreds, people of mixed race, one for Indians and then one for black Africans. And the purpose of what was then called Bantu education was, according to the cabinet minister responsible for introducing it into Parliament, to ensure that Blacks were efficient servants. I mean, it was incredible that he could state quite clearly that there was no hope of Blacks ever becoming equal to whites and that this education was intended, really, for perpetual serfdom.

And when it was introduced through - into the high schools and I was teaching in one of them, I felt that I could not collaborate in a system that was intended to emasculate our people and to help keep them oppressed. And I didn't have too many options. Originally, actually, I wanted to become a doctor. And we didn't have money at home. So I went to a teacher training college because the government was providing scholarships. But when Bantu education was introduced, I said, sorry, this is not for me. And looking around, I didn't have much else. It wasn't very high motives which got me into the church. It was that it was - it looked a fairly easy option.

GROSS: One of the leaders of the American civil rights movement, Reverend Martin Luther King...

TUTU: Yes, yes.

GROSS: ...Turned to civil disobedience...

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: ...As a technique...

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: ...To try to change segregation laws in this country. Do you think that those techniques of civil disobedience with, you know, a strong footing in the Bible...

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: ...Could be effective in South Africa?

TUTU: Let me say, first of all, that we are - many of us very greatly influenced and inspired by the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and those who were involved in the civil rights movement in this country, as also by Mahatma Gandhi. But one thing that we need to point out is that your struggle here, your civil rights struggle here was a struggle to put into effect rights that were guaranteed to all the people in the Constitution. In South Africa - and this is a very important difference - the constitution itself is discriminatory. And the laws are themselves against people struggling.

But, in fact, our people have used peaceful means. And since 1912, when the African National Congress was founded, it used peaceful means such as protests, petitions, deputations. And we even had a passive resistance campaign and commitment to using peaceful means. But then what happened? In 1960, our people were protesting peacefully against the passed laws. And on the 21 of March 1960 at Sharpeville, 69 of them were shot dead by the police. And many of them were shot in the back running away, clearly showing that they were not intent on harming the police.

And then in 1976, June the 16, our children were singing in the streets of Soweto, protesting peacefully against the inferior education about which we spoke a few moments ago. And the police turned on them and shot them and killed many. Many were arrested, and many are in exile in many different countries. And they have parents who do not know whether their children are alive or not. And then the other thing that I need to point out is - well, at least my own theory - that passive resistance, civil disobedience are things that presuppose a minimum moral level to which the protesters are appealing, people whose moral susceptibilities would be outraged.

Gandhi succeeded because he knew he could appeal to a certain constituency in Britain who would be morally outraged at the violence that was inflicted on people, as we saw in the Gandhi film. And in this country, people watching television and so on would be appalled seeing bullwhips and hose pipes turned on people protesting peacefully. And I don't think that we have that moral - that minimum moral level at all.

GROSS: Well, if you don't have that minimum moral level in which civil disobedience could become effective and if the constitution supports the apartheid system and you can't really rely on that, what alternatives do you have for change?

TUTU: Well, we will continue to work for change by reasonably peaceful means, and it is here that we seek the assistance of the international community. We try to enlist their help. We ask them to exert pressure on the South African government, political pressure, diplomatic pressure. But above all, put on the pressure to persuade them to come to the conference table, to talk with the authentic leaders - not spurious leaders but the authentic leaders of all groups of our population and work out a blueprint for a non-racial, a truly democratic and a truly just South Africa because we are committed to this, and we are committed to this new society. And we know it's going to happen. The only questions are how and when? And we would like it to happen reasonably, peacefully, and we would like it to happen soon. And the role of the international community is critical.

GROSS: We're listening to the interview I recorded with Desmond Tutu in 1984. He died Sunday. We'll hear more of the interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. We're remembering Desmond Tutu. He died Sunday at age 90. He was one of the leaders of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement and then helped lead the country in the transition to democracy. When we spoke in 1984, he was the secretary general of the South African Council of Churches, the first Black person to hold that position.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GROSS: A lot of people think that the only way change is going to happen is through violence because the government is so set in its ways, amoral and hasn't really...

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: ...Changed in the past. But you don't support violent change. Why are you opposed to the use of violence to overturn the apartheid system?

TUTU: Although I am not a pacifist, I am very deeply committed to peace because my own fear is that when you unleash violence, it is very difficult to control. And as a church organization, we can never espouse violence. We are given what St. Paul calls the Ministry of Reconciliation. But it must be true reconciliation, not cheap reconciliation. It is not a reconciliation that cries peace, peace, where there is no peace, which pretends that things are other than they are. And I need to say too, you know, that often when people speak about violence in South Africa, they think that it is something that is going to be introduced for the first time from outside of South Africa by those who are called terrorists. But that is not so. The South African situation is violent already, and the primary violence is the violence of the apartheid system. It is the violence of forced population removals.

The government has uprooted settled Black communities and dumped them as if they were rubbish in poverty-stricken areas. Many Blacks are being pushed into the rural areas, which are called Bantustans, and the father must leave his family there. There is very little work. There is very little food. And he has to come to town if he is lucky and lives as a migrant worker for 11 months of the year in a single-sex hostel without his family. If his wife joins him in the urban area without specific permission, then she is committing a crime. Can you imagine, I mean, that it is a crime for a woman married to a man to cohabit with him? And the fact that although I'm a bishop in the Church of God, I am 52 years of age, and maybe one or two people might be willing to be persuaded to think that I am reasonably responsible, I can't vote in my country, and yet a child of 18, because he or she is white, can vote.

Now, I mean, how do any people justify that kind of denial of access to the political decision-making processes? It is the violence of the migratory labor system, which undermines Black family life so sharply. It is the violence of an inferior education system. It is the violence that makes children starve in a country which is a net exporter of food. You know, I mean, and what we are really talking about is not so much a nonviolent struggle at home because it is nonsense to talk about violence and non-violence when children were killed as they were. It is, can we keep that - the level of violence to the barest minimum?

GROSS: Do you think that there are a lot of people arming themselves now?

TUTU: I can say that there are very many young people who think that those of us who are still speaking about reasonably peaceful change are dirty, I mean, that we must be crazy and need to have our heads read. I remember a small boy saying to me - a boy of 12 - after I had spoken at a meeting about reasonably peaceful change. He didn't ask me in the meeting. After the meeting, he said to me, Bishop Tutu. I heard what you said. Do you believe it? And I was humming and hawing. And he said, can you people with your eloquent talk about peaceful change show us what you have achieved with your talk? And we will show you what we have gained with a few stones. And that must reflect the view of quite a significant number of young people, that talking to whites who have become intransigent is a desperate waste of time, and the best thing is to go into the bush, get armed, get trained. And that's the only language they understand. And we say to the government, you know, we stand between South Africa and catastrophe.

GROSS: Let's go back to the boy who came up to you after a speech that you'd given. How did you respond to him when he said, give me some evidence that what you've done has effected any change, and I'll show you what we've accomplished with some stones? What did you say?

TUTU: I did not have any evidence to show him. And he could say that they had stopped Africans being used as a compulsory medium of instruction. He could point to new school buildings that the government had put up as a result of all the agitation since 1976. He could point to the fact that the government was putting more money into Black education than they had done before, largely in response to what the young people had done. And so in some ways, he was right. And that is why it is so desperately urgent that the international community helps us because very soon, our own credibility will go out of the window, as it is being eroded day by day because apartheid continues. And we stand there like parrots, mouthing the same things over and over again. And we are not heard by those who should listen.

GROSS: What do you think other countries can do in support of dismantling the apartheid system?

TUTU: I believe that they must make it quite clear that there is no way in which the perpetrators of apartheid will ever become respectable, and that apartheid will ever become acceptable. I think, I mean, that the perpetrators of apartheid must continue to be treated as pariahs in the world community. And the world community must lay down stringent conditions. I think that the world community can say - I mean, especially the business community, who are the ones who have enormous clout, you know? That is indicated by the fact that if I were to say on your program that I support economic sanctions against South Africa, disinvestment, that is a criminal offence. And until recently, if I was found guilty, the minimum mandatory sentence would be five years in prison, which shows that those who invest have considerable leverage, which they are refusing to use.

And so I would say to them, please, remember that your investment in South Africa is as much a political and moral factor as it is an economic one, that you are buttressing one of the most vicious systems in the world. But say to the African government, we will invest in South Africa provided, one, our Black workers live as families in family type accommodation near their place of work, that our Black workers will be unionized, because unionism says a worker has the right to sell his labor whatever he wishes. That first condition means you will not accept migratory labor system. The second condition says, you will not accept the past laws, which rigidly controlled Black movement, and that there must be an investment in Black education and training on the part of these people. And they should also have strict - a strict timetable. They give the South African government 18 to 24 months to implement these conditions. If they don't want to do that, then the pressure must become punitive. It must become sanctions.

GROSS: You've made it really clear that you think that the system has to and will change soon. And it will either change peacefully, or it would change through violence.

TUTU: Absolutely. Absolutely.

GROSS: What do you think the determinant will be, whether that change is peaceful or violent?

TUTU: It will be what the international community does. If it doesn't help us, we are for the birds.

GROSS: I want to thank you very much for being with us this afternoon. Thank you very much for coming today.

TUTU: Thank you. Thank you.

GROSS: My interview with Desmond Tutu was recorded in 1984, shortly before he was named the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. We'll continue our remembrance after a short break and hear the interview I recorded with him in 1999 about the transition from apartheid to democracy and his work as the chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

I'm Terry Gross. And this is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABDULLAH IBRAHIM'S "THE MOUNTAIN OF THE NIGHT")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Today, we're remembering Desmond Tutu. He died Sunday at age 90. He was one of the leaders of South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, and then helped lead the transition from apartheid to democracy. During the apartheid era, he was the first Black secretary general of the South African Council of Churches, the first Black bishop of Johannesburg and the Archbishop of Cape Town. In all these capacities, he used his power as a religious leader to protest against apartheid in his country and to travel around the world, urging leaders to impose sanctions and other pressures on the apartheid regime. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984.

After Nelson Mandela became president in 1994, having won the country's first fully democratic election, he named Tutu as chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its mission was to provide as complete a picture as possible of the gross human rights violations under apartheid. Those guilty of violations who offered truthful confession were considered for amnesty. When we spoke, Tutu had just written a book about the commission's work called "No Future Without Forgiveness." I asked him if he thought the commission had succeeded in achieving reconciliation in South Africa.

TUTU: It is important to remember that there was no way in which a commission sitting for only two or three years would be able to undo the ravages of not just 50 years of apartheid, but several centuries of colonial injustice and exploitation, where people were alienated from one another. But the commission has made a contribution. And it is important, perhaps, to remember that the law under which we operated was entitled the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act. It doesn't say the achievement. It says the promotion. And I think that the commission has gone a very long way towards contributing to a process which would need to involve all South Africans.

GROSS: In 1988, there was a massive bomb attack on the headquarters of the South African Council of Churches. The officials blamed the ANC for the attack. But you found out through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that the police were behind it, and that President Botha had actually personally given orders for this attack.

TUTU: This is what one of the applicants, a cabinet minister at the time who was in charge of the police, claims, that the order to destroy council house came from the then state president, Mr. P.W. Botha.

GROSS: Now, you personally knew P.W. Botha. You had met with him before this attack on the...

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: ...Church headquarters. Did you see him after the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings that revealed what had really happened, who had really given orders behind this attack? Did you talk to him about that?

TUTU: (Laughter).

GROSS: I'm thinking of reconciliation here.

TUTU: Yes. I, in fact, went to see him with many people attacking me for being so conciliatory, you know? We had subpoenaed him to appear before the commission. We wanted him to come and tell us his side of the story. We had heard so many allegations from not just low rank persons, but from fairly senior members of the security forces. And we wanted to hear from, as it were, the horse's mouth. And he refused to appear. Actually, before we subpoenaed him, we decided that we would try the soft approach, which was that I went to see him in his retirement home. And we had a very amicable discussion. But he was quite adamant that none of the things of which he was accused he was guilty of.

GROSS: Do you believe him?

TUTU: No, (laughter) of course not. No. I think, I mean, that he's an irascible old man who believes certain things firmly and had a particular kind of character and temperament. You know, he didn't stand any opposition. And they say he used to reduce many of his cabinet to tears in the way that he operated with them. And so one quite understood that he would have a massive blind spot. He believed that he was doing the right thing, especially by the white people. There was nothing that would shake him from his belief. He was very proud of the fact that he was seen as a granite man - immovable, totally immovable. Nothing, once he had taken a position, was likely to persuade him to shift.

GROSS: Did the idea of reconciliation feel any different to you as an aggrieved party than it fell to you as the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

TUTU: It's difficult, perhaps, to make those distinctions because many of the aggrieved were sitting in front of me. And I had a real empathy with them - not even empathy. I mean, I could just as well have changed places with them. Many of the things that they were describing could so easily have happened to me or to people very close to me in my family. But it was quite important that I sought to hold together the perpetrators, those who had benefited from the injustice and the oppression - to reach out to them in a way that would enable them to see that they were being given an opportunity. Here was a window, a door being opened for them to enter, as it were, the next room, which would be the future of - the kind of future where South Africans will be able to live amicably together. And so I couldn't, as you were, remain in the position of the aggrieved. I also had to do all I could, as did my colleagues on the commission, to be those who sought to facilitate an engagement between the perpetrator and the victim.

GROSS: We're listening to the interview I recorded with Desmond Tutu in 1999. We'll hear more of the interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. Let's get back to the interview I recorded in 1999 with Desmond Tutu. In his roles as the head of the South African Council of Churches, bishop of Johannesburg and archbishop of Cape Town, he was a leader in the fight against apartheid. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984. After apartheid, he helped lead the transition to democracy as chair of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a position he was appointed to by President Nelson Mandela.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

GROSS: I think you imply in your book that you don't think the Truth and Reconciliation Commission would be possible if it weren't for Mandela's generous spirit, the fact that he can emerge from such a long prison stay and not be just kind of bitter and seeking revenge, but rather have this generosity of spirit that seemed...

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: ...To be almost contagious.

TUTU: Yes, I believe that we were exceedingly blessed. I mean, God was very, very, very good to us to have made available at precisely this point in our history someone such as Nelson Mandela. Can we imagine if he had come out of jail spewing revenge and a lust for retribution? I mean, can you imagine where we would have been today?

Perhaps we would not even have made the very first base because the transition happened in a sense because Mr. de Klerk encountered Nelson Mandela and was amazed at the generosity of spirit of this man, of his magnanimity, of his willingness to forgive, of his commitment to reconciliation. Had he been the opposite, I doubt that Mr. de Klerk would have gone ahead with his very, very courageous initiatives that he announced on February 2, 1990. It was absolutely crucial.

And then once he came out, he could turn to people who had been hurt previously and say, look, let us not want to pay back in the same coin. And nobody would have been able to say to him, ha, ha, you are talking very glibly about forgiveness and things of that kind because you know nothing about suffering. (Laughter) Twenty-seven years in jail, you know? I mean, that gave him an incredible kind of credibility. And the greatest part of his stature stems from the fact not that he presided over a very rich country - because we're not a very rich country, we're not militarily powerful - it is because of his moral stature.

GROSS: You say that some people kind of referred to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as the Kleenex Commission because there was so much crying during...

TUTU: Yeah.

GROSS: ...The testimony of people who had been victimized under apartheid. And you say that there was one episode in particular in which you really broke down and cried. And after that, you swore you would never cry during one of the commission meetings again. What was the story that got you to weep like that?

TUTU: This man came as one of the witnesses very early on in the life of the commission, actually at our very first hearing in a place called East London. He was semiparalyzed and was sitting in a wheelchair. He'd been on Robben Island, in and out of jails, harassed by the security police. And at the end of his testimony to the commission, my colleague said, could he describe one of the ways in which he was tortured?

He had a speech impediment, as a result (inaudible) that he had suffered, which was a consequence, I think, of the torture that he had received over the years. And he was trying to describe something called the helicopter method, where the - you are strung out and then they spin you during the torture and you are really quite helpless. (Inaudible) that the words were not coming out as fluently as he wanted them because of his speech impediment or it was that he could not bear the memory of what they had done to him. At that particular point in his telling, he lifted his good hand, the only hand that he could easily move, and covered his face.

Now, we'd been sitting, listening to, I mean, quite gruesome details and stories through the day. And he was one of the last. He was probably the last witness to testify. And so I think almost all of us, we're almost at the ends of our tether. And when he broke down, you know, this adult man, it triggered me. I couldn't sit there, you know, and be stolid. I mean, the dams, you know, just broke, and we had to have a recess for a little while whilst I tried to recover, he tried to recover. What - why I said I was not going to cry again, as if I could control it, was that the media tended then to concentrate on me, whereas the point of the commission was that the attention had to be on the witness, especially these people who for so long had been treated like dirt, whose dignity had been trodden underfoot for so many years, these people who officially were nothing - that it was important that they should have their day. And to divert that attention my breaking down was in a way slightly unforgivable (laughter). And - but I had a tough time. I got to say, I said I considered that I was probably not the right person to be the chairperson of the commission. I thought that I was too weak.

GROSS: We're listening to my 1999 interview with Desmond Tutu. We'll continue our remembrance after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(SOUNDBITE OF ABDULLAH IBRAHIM'S "THE BALANCE")

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. We're remembering Desmond Tutu, a leader in the fight to end apartheid in South Africa. He died Sunday at age 90.

After Nelson Mandela was elected president in the country's first democratic election, he asked Tutu to chair South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission to look into the crimes of apartheid. People guilty of human rights violations who offered truthful confessions were considered for amnesty. Listening to the testimony was traumatic for the victims and for the members of the commission.

Is it true that the members of the commission got some kind of psychological counseling in how to deal with hearing so many stories of atrocities and torture?

TUTU: Yeah. Right at the beginning, we were helped by one of our staff persons who was a psychologist or had psychological training. And he advised us, for instance, that we should try to maintain a disciplined life, a regular life, that we should ensure that we had so-called quality time with our families, that we took regular recreation and exercise. But most importantly, he said, we needed to have a kind of soul mate to whom we could go to unburden ourselves because, he said, what tended to happen is that we would be traumatized ourselves as a - by proxy because as we listened to this person telling the story, we internalized their story and took it in. And it devastated us. And if we didn't want that to happen, as we heard these stories, we should try some way of letting what we - what came in go out.

I don't know that many of us followed that particular advice. What I do know is that I'm beginning to realize more and more that being on this commission took a tremendous toll on a vast number of people, certainly on all the commissioners. I think it was dramatized in a way for me by the fact that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in the middle of the commission. I would probably have had cancer in any case, but it did just seem so apt that it should happen as (unintelligible) in the middle, showing in a sense that we could be healers only because we ourselves were wounded. We might be able to help them only because we were ourselves in the same boat. And it was an incredible thing.

One of my colleagues, they were responsible for transcriptions, typing out the transcriptions of the evidence. She was head of the pool of people who did this. And she said she didn't know how this thing was affecting her until she saw the tears and felt the tears on her hands as she was typing because she didn't know she was crying. And many of my colleagues said that they found, for instance, that they were drinking more than they used to, that they were probably a great deal more short-tempered, especially at home. And it must have taken an incredible toll on those who were the interpreters because, you see, the interpreter listens to the - to this person speaking in the first person. And at one moment, the interpreter is a victim. They undressed me, and they did whatever they wanted to do with me. And then the next moment, he or she is a perpetrator. And she's going to speak in the first person. She doesn't say he says. She's going to say I abducted him. And I gave him drugged coffee. And I shot him in the head. I then burned his body. And as his body was burning, I was having a barbecue. I mean, you could think that, theoretically, you would be able to make a distinction and say this is my public life. This is my private life. It didn't work out that way.

GROSS: What about this? What about the survivors of victims, like the family of Steven Biko? He was a young, very forceful opponent of apartheid who was murdered in prison. And when the people who murdered him confessed, his family didn't want amnesty for the killers. They wanted to pursue criminal charges in court.

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: And I'm sure that they weren't the only ones who felt that they were being robbed of pursuing it in court and having the people punished for their crimes.

TUTU: Yes.

GROSS: What's your reaction to that? What's your response to them?

TUTU: Which mother would be regarded as a normal mother if she's told, you know, we gave your boys hand grenades, and they happened to be booby-trapped hand grenades, and when they pulled out the pin to throw the hand grenade at whatever adversary they had, the hand grenades blew up in their hands and blew them to smithereens, and the police who is confessing this sits there, and the mother sits there - which normal mother would say, I'm ready to embrace you? The amazing thing is that they could sit there and not want to go and choke the person who killed their child in this fashion. No, I don't think that we should criticize people. We should say it is your right. But remember that our country would not be in a position where you could, in fact, say I want to charge these people. We would not have had the transition that provides you with a democratic dispensation that would make it possible for you to charge. That would be the first thing.

The second is that, for many people, the evidence was not available. The police, the government - they lied. I mean, they lied like it was going out of fashion. I mean, they thought nothing of perjuring themselves. And they admit it now. And people now, because they see the evidence coming as a result of the disclosures by the perpetrators, say we could have brought cases against them. We would have brought cases against them, and they would have been thrown out of court because you had to prove beyond reasonable doubt. And if these guys did what they were doing so well in the past, they hid evidence. I mean, we didn't know who bombed Khotso House. We had suspicions, you know? And so we would say to those people, can you imagine what would have happened in our country if the police and the soldiers had known that, at the end of the transition period, they were going to be for the high jump? We would not have had the transition that amazed the world in 1994.

GROSS: Well, thank you so much for sharing some of your time with us. Thank you.

TUTU: God bless you.

GROSS: My interview with Desmond Tutu was recorded in 1999. He died Sunday at age 90. His funeral will be on New Year's Day.

Tomorrow on FRESH AIR, we'll resume our holiday week series and feature two of the many interviews we enjoyed this year. We'll hear from Cecily Strong, a cast member of "Saturday Night Live" who's known for her impression of Fox News host Judge Jeanine Pirro and her character, the Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party. She starred in the recent series "Schmigadoon!," a loving satire of classic musicals like "The Music Man," "The Sound of Music," "Oklahoma!," "Carousel" and "Brigadoon." And we'll hear from Cinco Paul who co-created "Schmigadoon!" and wrote all the songs. I hope you'll join us.

FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Roberta Shorrock, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Ann Marie Baldonado, Seth Kelley and Kayla Lattimore. Our digital media producer is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Thea Chaloner directed today's show. I'm Terry Gross.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Combine an intelligent interviewer with a roster of guests that, according to the Chicago Tribune, would be prized by any talk-show host, and you're bound to get an interesting conversation. Fresh Air interviews, though, are in a category by themselves, distinguished by the unique approach of host and executive producer Terry Gross. "A remarkable blend of empathy and warmth, genuine curiosity and sharp intelligence," says the San Francisco Chronicle.