Centre College mourns the death of Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel on Saturday, especially those who heard his riveting opening convocation address at Centre in 2005.
In it the Jewish writer, teacher and Holocaust survivor urged his audience—especially the new first-year students—to value their education, to read, to study and even to find a friend with whom to discuss deeper and perhaps unexpected meanings in their lessons.
“[W]hen you study, always go beyond,” he said. “You will study Romeo and Juliet, and you will see Romeo and Juliet is not a story of love. It is a story of hate and its consequences.”
Wiesel dedicated his long life to working against the consequences of hate.
He told the Centre audience that he wrote Night, his vivid account of the horrors he experienced as a teenager in the Nazi death camps, to remind the world of the importance and power of remembering evil.
“I felt it is the duty of a person who goes through an experience to bear witness,” he said. “If not, we betray it. It isn’t much, but that’s all we can do . . . hoping that these words will carry enough force to unmask evil. And if not defeat it forever, at least defeat it for the moment.
“It is possible to forget,” he warned. “And woe unto a generation that forgets.”
Wiesel received an honorary degree from Centre as part of the convocation. His talk brought to a close a yearlong Norton Center for the Arts exhibition, “Voices in the Darkness: The Holocaust, Arts and Culture,” that commemorated the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.
by Diane Johnson
July 6, 2016