A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Magnitude

I just got home from seeing Paul Rusesabagina speak at a store sponsored event at the First Parish Church in Cambridge. He’s touring to promote his new biography An Ordinary Man, which I reviewed here last week.

He’s an amazing speaker, and received several standing ovations from the 600 or so people that packed the church. He speaks with a wonderful accent in a very impassioned way with no notes at all — I imagine eveything is forever imprinted on his brain. He recounted several events that happened during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, including stories (I hesitate to use this word because it implies that they are made up and seems to deny the events their true signifigance in my mind) about the morning the genocide began on April 9th.

Above all, Paul Rusesabagina speaks about the power of words and how he used his words to save 1268 people. That may not seem like a large number considering how many people were slaughtered, but if it were you or me, that number would seem staggering. He also spoke at length about the current genocide taking place in the Sudan–genocide is the word he used. He visited there and noticed that the situation in Darfur mirrored the situation back in 1994. There are 2 million people without food, water, education or even hope. Rusesabagina urges us not to be bystanders, but to stand up for justice.

The part that spoke most to me was when an audience member asked him where he got his strength from during those horrible events? He replied that he remained himself throughout. Before the genocide he was a hotel manager, during the genocide he was a hotel manager, and afterward he remained a hotel manager. That’s a powerful message.