An ordinary man: a missed opportunity

Chelsea Biba

Lawrence University has missed an easy chance to bring a distinguished speaker to campus, as well as an opportunity to shed more light on the ongoing genocide in Darfur.
Paul Rusesabagina was an authentic hero of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a man who risked his life to give shelter to 1,268 Tutsi and moderate Hutus inside the luxury hotel he managed while slaughter reigned outside. These events were later portrayed in the movie “Hotel Rwanda,” and Paul has since been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, becoming one of the only non-U.S. citizens in history to be given such a distinction.
He also has a connection to Lawrence University.
In 2005, he enlisted me to serve as his co-writer on his autobiography, “An Ordinary Man,” a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, which has been translated worldwide into 11 languages. At least two American universities have selected it as their “common book” for all the campus to read.
Paul has since given lectures on over 200 college campuses across the U.S., speaking about the lessons from what he witnessed and how they relate to the ongoing genocide in Darfur, in which more than 300,000 people have been killed. Paul is eloquent and passionate about the ability of ordinary people to fight the great evil of genocide.
He has spoken, among other places, at Dartmouth, Ohio State, Yale, Texas, Duke, Middlebury, Michigan, Bowdoin and UW-Whitewater. Other campuses on his itinerary have included Northern Iowa Community College, Minneapolis Community and Technical College and Niagara County Community College. The audiences are routinely overflowing, and many administrators have proclaimed him one of the most arresting speakers they have ever invited.
I have been attempting for four years to persuade my alma mater, Lawrence University, to invite Paul Rusesabagina to speak on campus in any setting, as I obviously believe his message is vital and relevant to every American. I have offered to intercede to get the honoraria reduced or waived. But as yet, no invitation has been extended. His lecture agent at the American Program Bureau of Newton, Mass. has told me she has never received a reason as to why Paul has been consistently passed over as a speaker at Lawrence.
Jan. 22, Paul Rusesabagina finally spoke on a college campus in Appleton. He spoke to an overflow audience of 500 people at Fox Valley Technical College. I am uncertain as to why Lawrence would make this decision, if even through inertia, to not grant this distinguished and courageous man an audience.

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