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Paul Rusesabagina

Paul Rusesabagina delivering an Ubben LectureApril 25, 2005, Greencastle, Ind. - Video Link [Download Video: "History's Lessons" - 470kb] "Ladies and gentlemen, history keeps on repeating itself, and never teaches mankind. We never learn from the past," said Paul Rusesabagina, whose courageous actions are documented in the Academy Award-nominated film Hotel Rwanda. Delivering The Timothy and Sharon Ubben Lecture to a Kresge Auditorium packed with 1,400 people (an overflow crowd watched a closed-circuit television feed in nearby Thompson Recital Hall), Rusesabagina discussed "Hotel Rwanda: A Lesson Yet to Be Learned." He was welcomed to the stage by a long standing ovation, one of three he received during his 75-minute-long appearance. Video Link [Download Video: "First Standing Ovation" - 598kb]

Paul Rusesabagina risked his life and the lives of his family when he turned his hotel into a sanctuary and saved more than 1,000 Tutsis from death at the hands of the Hutu militia. Don Cheadle was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Rusesabagina in the movie, which was released last year. In his speech, Rusesabagina described the United Nations pullout from his country as violence raged, and his frantic, unsuccessful attempts to fax and telephone world leaders for help. Video Link [Download Video: "Abandoned" - 306kb] Audio Link [Download Audio: "Abandoned" - 98kb] "The whole world turned it's back. It abandoned a whole nation."

Paul Rusesabagina on stage during an Ubben lectureAudio Link [Download Audio: "The 2 Words" - 455kb] "The two most abused words in the world are never and again," Rusesabagina told student media and professional journalists who gathered for a news conference at DePauw's Walden Inn this afternoon. "In 1994, when the genocide was taking place in Rwanda, is when the Holocaust Museum was inaugurated in Washington, D.C. And all the speakers said 'never' and 'again.'"

Over the course of 100 days, almost one million people were killed in Rwanda. Rusesabagina, who managed the Belgian-owned Hotel de Mille Collines in Rwanda's capital city, Kigali, kept more than a thousand refugees in his hotel for approximately 11 weeks, sheltering them from certain death. In his speeches and his travels, Rusesabagina says he wants to raise awareness about the atrocities now occurring in the Sudan and Congo.

Paul Rusesabagina speaking to the crowd during an Ubben LectureAudio Link [Download Audio: "United Nations" - 684kb] "The international community has failed, especially when it comes to the United Nations," Rusesabagina told the reporters, citing the current unrest in Darfur. "So far I haven't heard of any conflict that has been solved by the United Nations. Because sometimes when they sit down together in the Security Council to take strong resolutions against a country, they are so many superpowers that will always say 'no', 'this way or that' because of political strategies, economic interest and so on and so forth. And, in the end, there's actually no decision, no strong decision, resolution taken against a criminal country."

Paul Rusesabagina speaking during a press conferenceThe director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, has suggested that the world response to the Rwandan genocide was weak because leaders of the superpowers view African lives as being worth less than American or European lives. Rusesabagina doesn't disagree. Audio Link [Download Audio: "Valued Lives" - 367kb] "In the Congo for instance, since 1996 four million people -- I'm referring to the United Nations reports -- four million people have been killed. Do you sometimes read that in the media? What would they say if it was in Europe? Would the whole world not care?"

He's been called a hero, and "Rwanda's Schindler," but Rusesabagina insists he did nothing more than what was right. Audio Link [Download Audio: "What He Did" - 249kb] "You know there was no other solution, and there was nothing else to be done. I had to listen to my own conscience, and what my conscience dictated is what I have done."

Paul Rusesabagina speaking to students at a tablePaul Rusesabagina's day at DePauw included the news conference, a dinner with faculty and alumni hosted by DePauw President Robert G. Bottoms, the Ubben Lecture, and a reception with faculty and students following the speech.

An Oscar nominated film has put Paul Rusesabagina and his homeland in a spotlight more than a decade after bloody violence that much of the world turned a blind eye toward. Audio Link [Download Audio: "Making a Difference" - 203kb] "Especially in America people are telling me, 'Sorry. We are sorry. We did not know what was going on in Rwanda. But now that we know, what can we do?' People can do a lot," Rusesabagina says. He urges people to donate relief supplies, especially food, to the many orphans of the Rwandan victims. He has established the Paul Rusesabagina Foundation to deliver that relief. And, he called on his audience to stay abreast of the world's problem spots and pressure their leaders to do the same.

Paul Rusesabagina shaking hands with studentsAudio Link [Download Audio: "Pressuring Leadership" - 541kb] "Because whatever is happening in the developing world, in the African countries, in all of those dictatorships there is always a Western, strong government helping the dictators. So what we need from you, for instance, is to urge your leaders... let them know what is happening. If need be, people can even go down to the street and demonstrate. This happened -- the whole world demonstrated a few years ago against apartheid, and apartheid is completely gone," Rusesabagina noted.

Paul Rusesabagina's DePauw appearance was co-sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs.