Overflow Crowd Welcomes Paul Rusesabagina, Hero of Hotel Rwanda, to DePauw
April 25, 2005
April 25, 2005, Greencastle, Ind. - [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. [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. [Download Video: "Abandoned" - 306kb] [Download Audio: "Abandoned" - 98kb] "The whole world turned it's back. It abandoned a whole nation."
[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 occuring in the Sudan and Congo.
[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 inDarfur. "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."
The 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. [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. [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'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. [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.
[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.
The Ubben Lecture Series has brought distinguished individuals to the DePauw University campus since 1986, including 2004 presidential candidate and retired General Wesley Clark, former British Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major, Ambassador Paul Bremer, National Football League Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning, General Colin Powell, Ross Perot, Shimon Peres, Spike Lee, Mike Krzyzewski, Harry Belafonte and ice cream entrepreneurs Ben & Jerry. To view a complete list of Ubben Lecturers, which includes links to video clips and news stories, click here.Back