10 December 2018
University of the Witswatersrand in Johannesburg has honoured SOAS Director Baroness Valerie Amos CH for her contribution to public service with an Honorary Doctorate in Literature.
The university said: “The Right Honourable The Baroness Amos of Brondesbury has an abiding passion for justice and equality around the world, and has served as an expert in world development. She is an activist for social justice, a diplomat and a public servant. She is a role model and a reminder of our common humanity and it is therefore befitting that the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg awards an honorary doctorate degree to Valerie Amos.”
SOAS Director Valerie Amos pictured about with Dr Judy Dlamini (left) and SOAS President and Chair of the Nelson Mandela Children’s Hospital, based at Wits, Graça Machel
In accepting her honour, Baroness Amos reflected on her first visit to South Africa in 1994 where she saw a county of huge contradictions and contrasts. She said she was “awed by the scale of the vision, the ambition, the recognition that is could change” and saw “first-hand people a country and people grappling with a painful history and moving steadfastly to a future of opportunity”.
Baroness Amos also spoke of an increasingly fragmented world where proxy wars are being waged by larger, wealthier countries, and where we are seeing a “negative impact of bullying behaviour” on the ability of multilateral organisations to be effective. But she reminded students that “this is your world. You have a big stake in it. Don’t give in to that bullying.”
In her closing remarks, Baroness Amos said: “My generation had left you with some big fights ahead of you, but armed with your Wits education you have the tools. You are future ready. On this anniversary I must link to President Mandela. He said ‘education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’. No one can take that education away from you. Be the change you want to be and don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do it.”
Wits University also honoured the outgoing Chancellor of the University, Justice Dikgang Moseneke in recognition of his significant political, social and economic contribution to South Africa and its people.
The full speech is available on Wits University's soundcloud.