`Rwanda' fits theme for May 4

Posted on Sun, Apr. 30, 2006

`Rwanda' fits theme for May 4

Inspiration for movie to speak at KSU event

Beacon Journal staff writer

The headliner for Kent State's May 4 events isn't a household name. But his story is.

Paul Rusesabagina sheltered more than 1,200 people from almost certain slaughter in a Rwandan national uprising a dozen years ago. His story was made into the movie Hotel Rwanda last year.

His talk will be the 36th annual anniversary of May 4, a convocation of scholars and activists who mark a dark day -- the deaths of four students and the wounding of nine by National Guardsmen during campus unrest over the Vietnam War.

As usual, both Kent State and the student-run May 4 Task Force will present activities May 2 to 4.

Jim Gaudino, dean of the College of Communication and Information, said the Symposium on Democracy will examine how democracy deals with polarizing issues. The university started the symposium seven years ago to put a scholarly edge on the annual event.

``Do we still have the ability to come up with effective political decisions?'' Gaudino said of the symposium. ``Is this kind of thing a natural phenomenon of a changing society -- and is it a good thing?''

He co-chairs the symposium with John West, vice president of research and dean of Graduate Studies.

The symposium, ``Irreconcilable Differences? Democratic Policy Deliberations in Science, Religion and Politics,'' will involve faculty from other universities.

One is John Campbell, a communications professor at the University of Memphis who has become a leader in a fresh field -- the rhetoric of science.

His specialty is how Charles Darwin took the ``radically threatening and unwelcome news'' of his Origin of Species and made it intelligible and persuasive to a lay audience, although by no means to all.

``What Darwin did in his time has some significant lessons on how educators, philosophers and scientists might engage the public of our time,'' Campbell said.

At the May 4 Task Force, student leaders will take a harder edge than they have in some previous years and will focus on condemning the war in Iraq, said President Kevin Heade, a senior majoring in political science and education.

The Task Force focus will be ``The Cost of War -- Then and Now.''

In addition to signature events such as a candlelight walk and silent vigil, guest speakers will take center stage on the afternoon of May 4, when KSU classes will be canceled for two hours.

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the nationwide women's peace movement CodePink, will discuss her efforts to get U.S. soldiers out of Iraq and to stop any attack on Iran. She will be galvanizing followers for a rally in Washington, D.C., over Mother's Day weekend, May 13 and 14.

Mary Ann Vecchio, the Florida runaway whose anguish over a dead student was captured in a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, also will make a return visit to Kent. The photo of her anguished cry became a symbol for the Vietnam anti-war movement.

Rusesabagina just happened to be on a nationwide tour promoting his new autobiography, An Ordinary Man, when KSU's Center for Student Involvement was looking for a speaker on leadership.

Rusesabagina epitomizes leadership, said Ann Gosky, associate director of campus life, and his story ties in beautifully with the war and peace theme that permeates May 4 events.

Perhaps it was fate -- he had only one date available, May 2.

``The timing was right,'' she said.

In 1994, Rusesabagina was the assistant manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines in the Rwandan capital of Kigali.

He used his influence, bribery and connections to safeguard the guests at his hotel -- including his wife and children -- from radical Hutus during the ``hundred days of slaughter.''

Rusesabagina, who now lives in Belgium, went on to found the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation to care for orphans and women abused during the genocide and in other sub-Saharan countries with similar crises.

He will speak in the University Auditorium, which seats 800, and will sign copies of his book after the speech.

All May 4 events are free and open to the public.

Carol Biliczky can be reached at 330-996-3729 or cbiliczky@thebeaconjournal.com

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