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Rwandan President Speaks at Lincoln Theater
Rwandan President Paul Kagame (standing at podium) shares a light moment with President Walter Harrison (left) and Professor Avinoam Patt.
Kagame greets Joseph Olzacki (left), a University alumnus who was recently named special advisor on genocide and Holocaust education at the Greenberg Center. Standing behind them is President Walter Harrison. Olzacki's extensive work on genocide education has taken him to Rwanda, and he was largely responsible for bringing Kagame to the University on Tuesday.
Avinoam Patt, the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Hartford, discusses the University's newly expanded Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative.
Frank Tedesco '15 (left), a music composition major at The Hartt School, performed an original composition for piano that he wrote, titled "The New Rwanda: From Dark to Light."
Republic of Rwanda President Paul Kagame addressed a capacity crowd in Lincoln Theater Tuesday to mark the launch of the University’s newly expanded Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative.
Kagame, who is serving his second term as president, discussed the ongoing efforts to transform his country economically, politically, and socially in the wake of the horrific 1994 genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 to one million men, women, and children were killed. The slaughter ended when the Rwandan Patriotic Front, a rebel force led by Kagame, defeated the extremist government that led the genocide.
Speaking to a sold-out crowd that included many high school and University students, Kagame outlined the tremendous progress that has been made in Rwanda since 1994 in economic development, infrastructure, education, health care, and other key areas. But, he said, much work remains to be done to meet the goals of the nation building plan known as Vision 20/20.
Following Kagame’s talk on Tuesday, the University hosted a symposium in Wilde Auditorium in which scholars from the University of Hartford and other New England universities discussed the aftermath of genocide.
Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative
The University’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies brought President Kagame to campus to mark the launch of its significantly expanded Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative. The goal of the initiative is to preserve the memories of the Holocaust and genocides worldwide and help spread the lessons that must be learned from them.
"Rwandans know only too well the horrors of genocide," Kagame said. "We appreciate and support this initiative because we have a shared interest in educating others about these crimes so that it never happens again."
Helping to advance this newly expanded initiative will be University of Hartford alumnus Joseph Olzacki, who recently was named a special advisor on genocide and Holocaust education at the Greenberg Center. Olzacki has received national attention for his innovative “Identity Project,” a curriculum designed to raise awareness about genocide among high school students.
Among the many components of the new Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative is a proposed exchange program in which teachers from Rwanda would study at the University of Hartford.
In his remarks, President Kagame stressed the importance of education in the ongoing efforts to rebuild and transform Rwanda, and he expressed strong support for educational exchanges.
"A nation is what it is because of the education it provides its people," Kagame said. "I look forward to the day when our young people from Rwanda will graduate from the University of Hartford.”
Avinoam Patt, the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History at the University of Hartford, outlined some of the other major components of the newly expanded Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative. They include the following:
– The “In Our Own Words” Genocide Interview Project to collect testimonies from survivors of genocides and their second- and third- generation descendants. The Greenberg Center will work to develop this project in collaboration with the University’s School of Communication, Department of Psychology, and partner institutions nationally and internationally.
– The Future of “Genocide Prevention Now” – Teaching with Mobile Technologies project, which will involve an expansion of the existing website, Genocide Prevention Now. The website was founded in 2009 by Professor Israel Charny, executive director of the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, Israel.
– The Greenberg Center’s continuing annual Holocaust and Genocide Education Workshop and Awards initiative with middle school and high school teachers.
– New exhibitions on genocide and genocide prevention at the University’s Museum of Jewish Civilization (located in Mortensen Library).
– The Hatikvah Holocaust and Genocide Research Library, which will be housed at the Greenberg Center.
– The Greenberg Center’s ongoing work to help uncover and document the buried remains of the Sobibor extermination camp in Poland, and the premier of the documentary film, Hidden Holocaust at Sobibor, in October 2013.