Friday, December 4, 2009

A Message for a Lifetime

Last night I had the opportunity to hear Elie Wiesel speak at Bryant University. Brought to the University by the Student Arts and Speaker Series, the lecture was free and open to the public.

It's hard for me to characterize what I think of Professor Wiesel. Admiration seems too small a word. I am definitely in awe of where he has been, what he as seen and what he has and continues to accomplish. That I had the opportunity to see and hear him speak in person is still unbelievable to me. As I expected, the lecture was full.

Professor Wiesel is 81 years old. Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, he is an author, professor, political activist and Holocaust survivor. His biography is extensive. For that you can go here, and I highly recommend that you do because his life from birth in a small town in what is now Romania until today is extraordinary.

Last night he entered the stage to a standing ovation. Sitting at the front of the stage at a small table with only a microphone, he spoke for nearly an hour during which he held the attention of a rapt audience and then took a handful of questions.

Summarizing what he said during that hour is very difficult. I went in thinking I knew what he was going to talk about but he touched on so many different topics, I don't know where to begin. A professor at Boston University, it felt very much like we were sitting in a lecture class.

He referred to his time in the concentration camps during World War II (read his book "Night"), told stories of meeting with Presidents, speaking at the United Nations, and one particularly fascinating story of a conference in Oslo in 1990 when he took Nelson Mandela and a proponent of apartheid by the arms and put them in a room together with the direction "talk to each other."

He spoke of being a member of an 'endangered generation,' and that he worries that the world is going to forget what happened in World War II. And, of course, the history of the Holocaust must never be forgotten. Professor Wiesel is also a Bible scholar. One statement from last night that will stay with me forever was his suggestion of an 11th Commandment which would be "Thou Shalt Not Stand Idly By."

Shortly after being awarded the Nobel prize, he and his wife, Marion established The Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity. On the website, the foundation's mission is to combat indifference, intolerance and injustice through international dialogues and youth-focused programs that promote acceptance, understanding and equality.

A message to everyone and something we should all strive for daily.


Image courtesy of Google.

13 comments:

Debbie said...

I bet that was one experience you'll never forget.

Vodka Logic said...

sounds inspirational. I will keep an eye out for the book

DUTA said...

Elie Wiesel is a very charismatic person. This and his background as a Hollocaust survivor, plus his present as a distinguished professor and writer make it all very interesting.

Anita said...

What an amazing opportunity to hear him speak. I've read his book Night so many times, most recently when my daughters read it for HS English Lit.
Not standing idly by........words to live by.

Shauna said...

How great that you got to hear him speak. I have his book Night but have not read it yet. It's on my reading list after the holidays.

BONNIE K said...

I would love to hear him speak. I think he's an amazing man. You're lucky you got to experience that.

New England Girl said...

I would LOVE to see him speak. I read his book 'Night' years ago and was so deeply touched by it. He is an incredible man. I'm jealous of you! :)

Laoch of Chicago said...

Sounds moving.

Kathy Garmus said...

Thanks for posting this, Sandy. What a powerful message!

mama-face said...

I don't want to sound all giddy; seems inappropriate somehow. How lucky you were to hear him; his book is raw and haunting. I like that he tells how he feels and doesn't make apologies.

mama-face said...

I feel that I must say that I wasn't implying that other commenters were being giddy; just that that is how I usually come across. sorry.

Pam said...

I was lucky enough to attend this event with you and you've done a great job describing it here. A once in a lifetime opportunity for sure.

Brittany said...

What an awesome experience!

Great stuff!

 

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