An unknown commentator just put up the following comment:
"Prof Wolff visited South Africa in the late 1980s and gave a number of spectacular lectures. He joined us in placard protests against apartheid. If I recall correctly, he joked at the time that he did not get arrested for protesting against the Vietnam War and was hoping that he could make up for it then. None of us got arrested, despite the protest being filmed by the police. What a privilege to have heard his lectures and engage him broadly on a range of topics. Hope he sees this and remembers the visit.
Thank you for making yourself available to so many aspiring or budding political theorists. You have no idea of the incredible impact you had on a generation of students at Wits University."
It is impossible for me to say adequately how thrilled I am by this comment. That was the first of what would be more than 40 visits to South Africa over the next 30 years. I spent five weeks lecturing to the second year philosophy class at the University of the Witwatersrand, and I fell in love with the country. I have, of course, written at length about this in my autobiography. It was out of that trip and my subsequent involvement in the anti-apartheid movement at Harvard that I created University Scholarships for South African students, an organization that I ran all by myself for 25 years. Through that organization I was able to offer scholarships (or bursaries, as they were called) to 1600 or more young poor black men and women so that they could attend historically black universities and technikons in South Africa.
Many of you will recall the passage in Dostoyevsky's The Brothers Karamazov in which Grushenka tells the story of the bitter old woman who gives an onion from her garden to a passing beggar, and onion which her guardian angel later uses in an attempt to pull her out of hell. I have long thought that if there is a hell, and if I, as I suspect, that is where the good Lord sends me, my work in South Africa will be the onion that offers me a way out.
My thanks to "unknown" for the comment and for reminding me of that long and rewarding chapter in my life.