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Oscar winner Forest Whitaker gets honorary fellowship at SOAS

Last King of Scotland star says students can change world with 'freshness of vision'

27 July, 2018 — By Tom Foot

Forest Whitaker at SOAS 

OSCAR winner Forest Whitaker delivered an inspirational speech to graduates at SOAS university yesterday (Thursday).

The actor – who has starred in a host of films including The Last King of Scotland and Black Panther – is also an activist and Unesco special envoy.

He told graduates to harness their “freshness of vision” to right society’s wrongs before accepting an honorary fellowship from the television and radio presenter Zeinab Badawi for his humanitarian work.

Mr Whitaker said: “In receiving this fellowship I think in particular of those young people that I’m working with in Mexico, South Sudan and Uganda – the kind of places that have been impacted by conflict and armed violence. Some have been through painful trials that many adults will never experience in their entire lives. Those who were child soldiers missed many years of their schooling and most of them will never have seen a college. Let me add immediately that these young people don’t want to be seen as victims… they live in the hope and aim of a new future.

“They keep coming up with bright ideas, new ideas to help the youth. The people turn their communities into prosperous spaces, places that are filled with peace.

“They deserve my recognition on this day when I receive this fellowship at SOAS because they are some of my role models. I do believe that their capacity to transform their communities into better places is itself a call for action that everyone must heed.”

Mr Whitaker is the Unesco Special Envoy for Peace and Reconciliation and works for the United Nations on sustainability.

SOAS politics academic Dr Phil Clark told the students: “In an era of continued mass conflict and attempts by global leaders to divide societies across racial, ethnic and religious lines, Forest’s work as an activist and peace envoy are both inspirational and essential.

“His life’s work also resonates deeply with SOAS’s philosophy of encouraging understanding and empathy across national and social divides and harnessing the immense potential of young people for the good of all our communities.”

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