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Sage advice from Tutu Fellow at graduation address


2018 Fellow Judy Sikuza was the guest speaker at the University of Cape Town’s Faculty of Humanities graduation ceremony that took place at on 10 April 2019.  Judy, who is the Deputy Executive Director of the Nelson Mandela Rhodes Foundation, spoke at the first of five Faculty of Humanities graduations.  She said academic success at school and studies at an Ivy League institution had not prepared her for joblessness.

The first in her family to matriculate, and armed with an MA from Columbia University as a Fulbright Scholar, she found herself camping on a friend’s couch months after she had graduated. Application after application was rejected.  It was a humbling lesson that she, too, was not exempt from the hard blows of life, despite all her achievements.

I knew it was up to me to write a new narrative for my lineage, to honour everything they had sacrificed that gave me the potential to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty,” she said.  Judy  credited a combination of her skills, qualifications, her stock of life lessons, and her ability to connect with people for eventually opening a door at one of Johannesburg’s top banks. In the workplace, she realised that delivering top-notch work and effecting change were as much a result of learning about the people and context she was working in as they were an outcome of learning to build trust and credibility.  Emotional intelligence was key.  Yet corporate success left her hungry for something different: social change. Sikuza resigned from her “cushy corporate job” without any idea of what she would do next.

“But I knew that I had to let go of what was no longer serving me to allow the next chapter to emerge.”  Sikuza also urged the graduands to choose their friends and partners well – “these are the people that really shape you” – and to treasure moments with family and community.  “Make sure you choose friends who inspire you. Keep friends who challenge and stretch you… those who remind you of the dream. Let go of people with negative vibes; they’re going to pull you down."

Sikuza left the graduands with a quote from author Paulo Coelho, saying: “Perhaps the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Perhaps it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were always meant to be in the first place.” You can watch the video of her address at the UCT website.

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Monday, 17 February 2020

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