Yet, mention “Hotel Rwanda,” and suddenly the flash from thousands of light bulbs going off simultaneously will brighten any room.
His story, which inspired the heavily acclaimed movie, is real. His courage has inspired thousands, perhaps millions, around the world. And he is coming to our hometown community at the invitation of Cleveland State Community College to speak as a special guest during the school’s popular Multicultural Week which celebrates people and the diverse cultures they bring to Bradley County.
We welcome Paul Rusesabagina with open arms, warm hearts and deep appreciation for his landmark brave acts and the message of those courageous actions. This great man’s personal convictions helped the human race to look deep within itself while furthering the cause of humanitarianism in lands, near and far, where tolerance has too often yielded to violence and inevitable bloodshed.
Just a decade ago, in the unnoticed African nation of Rwanda, a civil war between longtime rival sects — the Hutu and the Tutsi — led to the mass genocide of an estimated 1 million Rwandans, and the senseless rape and crime against thousands of Rwandan women.
Determined to protect his own family, Rusesabagina housed his loved ones in the Hotel des Mille Collines which he managed in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. In months to come, the number of refugees seeking sanctuary in the Four Star resort grew to an estimated 1,200. Using his own business savvy and love for all people, Rusesabagina afforded protection for the hundreds of innocent lives against the marauding Hutu militia.
Since the violence in his native country — which today has softened to a sometimes uneasy truce — the inspiring story of Rusesabagina’s heroics has spread across the globe. He has become a celebrated speaker worldwide, a leader among all who share the common cause of humanity and a moral compass for any who would lift a hand against the innocent.
It is as unsurprising, as it is appropriate, that the proud Rwandan has been lauded by many while being named recipient of multiple prestigious awards. Just a few include the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award and the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award.
Rusesabagina understands his protection of the innocent whose lives were mere would-be statistics at the hands of machete-wielding barbarians has changed forever his direction in this world. He has gallantly accepted the role of libertarian and humanitarian in a world where too many still cower beneath the heavy sword of oppression.
Of his newfound humanitarian role, Rusesabagina has been quoted as acknowledging, “I’ve become a humanitarian, and I never thought I would become one. And, as a humanitarian, I wanted to take this message on a wider scale, to raise awareness of what happened in my country so that the international community can help others who suffer now.”
Evil in this lifetime will not be snuffed overnight. Its spread is, and always will be, aided when good men turn away.
Paul Rusesabagina did not falter. For that, our human race should be forever thankful.
He will speak Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the George R. Johnson Cultural Heritage Center Theater. Earlier in the day, the movie “Hotel Rwanda” will be shown at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the same location. A reception honoring Rusesabagina will be held immediately after the speaking engagement. The public is invited to all events. Admission is free.
We encourage all who believe in life, love and the miracle of humanity to attend.
Thank you, Paul.
Thank you for your warmth, your compassion, your leadership and most importantly, for your willingness to boldly step into an uncertain future where change is not only good, it is a mandate.