Live the impossible dream. It always seems impossible until it’s done. Embrace your challenges as those challenges groom you for leadership. You acquired all the key ingredients, at this University, to become an efficient and inspirational change maker – an innovative leader who can forge a future for humanity. Start by doing what is necessary, then do what is possible, and soon you will be doing the impossible.
This was the sentiment of staunch anti-apartheid campaigner and civil rights leader in the US, Ambassador Andrew Jackson Young Jr, who with a standing ovation accepted an honorary doctoral degree from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) on Wednesday, 20 March 2019.
“With this honorary doctorate, we pay tribute to an icon in his own right, a legend who has inspired the global struggle for justice. Indeed, as a visionary individual, Ambassador Young helped change the course of history and built a remarkable legacy as a civic activist, elected official, groundbreaking ambassador, social entrepreneur, and adviser to presidents. Today, he leads the Andrew J. Young Foundation’s efforts to develop and support new generations of visionary leaders who will create sustainable global approaches to economic development, poverty alleviation, and the challenge of hunger,” said Professor Alex Broadbent, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at UJ.
Ambassador Young was a key strategist and negotiator during campaigns that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. His contribution towards the fight against apartheid in South Africa was exemplary. He worked closely with the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr and President Jimmy Carter appointed Young to serve as the nation’s first African American Ambassador to the United Nations, in 1977. He was an architect of the first US policy in African policy grounded in human rights and negotiated an end to white-minority rule in Sub-Saharan Africa by bringing in President Carter’s emphasis on human rights to international diplomacy efforts.
His involvement with Africa has continued in the years since his term as Ambassador. In 1996, he co-founded Good Works International, which promotes sustainable economic development in Africa and the Caribbean.
During a visit to South Africa in 2016, then Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, praised Ambassador Young for his work in fighting injustice. Radebe stated: “Young is an icon in his own right, a colossus and a legend who inspired the struggle for justice – he was indeed a staunch anti-apartheid campaigner and took a hardline attitude towards former US President Ronald Reagan’s “constructive engagement” policies. He always fought for the release of Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners.”
Prof Broadbent highlighted that Ambassador Young throughout his career demonstrated distinguished social and political achievement related to the University’s vision, mission, values and strategic goals. “The honorary doctorate also represents South Africa’s gesture of gratitude to all African Americans who helped to destroy apartheid and rekindle their long overdue collaboration with the African American community. The University, in particular, the Faculty of Humanities is greatly honoured to confer the degree of Philosophiae Doctor Honoris causa upon him.”
Ambassador Young was the first recipient of an honorary doctorate conferred by the University during this year’s Autumn graduation season, which started on Thursday, 14 March.
Those who will be conferred with Honorary Doctorates include:
• The South African social justice campaigner and global civil society activist, Mr Kumi Naidoo;
• African-American mathematician, Katherine Johnson – whose calculations of orbital mechanics as a NASA employee were critical to the success of the first and subsequent US manned spaceflights;
• the 2016 Noble prize in Chemistry recipient, Professor Bernard Lucas, aka Ben Feringa and; Current the Executive Director of The World Academy of Sciences, Professor Romain Murenzi are among those that will be conferred with Honorary Doctorates.
Ambassador Young concluded: “This honour bestowed on me today binds me to this institution that shares my passion. I have respect for the University and its endeavours to promote Africanism.”