As previously reported on this blog and The Wesleyan Connection, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and acclaimed writer and speaker Elie Wiesel spoke to a packed Memorial Chapel yesterday evening. The lecture, titled “The Death Penalty and Human Dignity,” was simulcast in the CFA Hall, Beckham Hall, and the Goldsmith Family Cinema. Wiesel was introduced by Rabbi David Leipziger Teva and President Roth, who commented: “He goes on telling the story, he goes on teaching, he goes on writing. Because he sees the work is not yet accomplished.”
Wiesel spoke thoughtfully and powerfully—with grace and, not infrequently, surprising and sharp wit—on his opposition to the death penalty, his belief in “building an ethical society,” and the power of education.
He culled stories from the Old Testament, and from his own staggering life story as a Holocaust survivor. He mentioned his past visits to Wesleyan, over thirty years ago, and joked that he never expected to hear Hasidic stories from the president of a school called Wesleyan. He answered a select handful of questions from students—on his view towards the death penalty, on how to respond to Holocaust deniers when there are no living Holocaust survivors left, on how students can go about changing the world (answer: “Information must be transformed into knowledge, knowledge into sensitivity, and sensitivity into commitment”).
And he repeated, as a Holocaust survivor, a human rights activist, and a witness of mass human genocide and cruelty, his personal mantra and commandment, from Leviticus: “Thou shalt not stand idly by.”
Stephen H. Devoto, over at the Middletown Eye blog, offers an excellent write-up on the lecture, complete with further images of the Chapel and direct quotes from Wiesel’s speech. Thanks—again—to B’nai B’rith Lecture Bureau for organizing this extraordinary opportunity.
(Image by Brian Stewart, via the Middletown Eye)