I could only see his gray tuft of hair from behind a sea of heads, but I heard his powerful words. The words came from Elie Wiesel, a man who survived the Holoucast and survived to tell his story. And boy is it a story worth telling. Even from just hearing him talk for a half hour, I felt empowered and motivated to want to do better.
Wiesel was the guest speaker at Thursday night’s convocation at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Fla. He talked about the value of education, and how it should go hand-in-hand with morality. Wiesel didn’t talk in length about his experiences, but his words reflected years of wisdom — the kind of wisdom that can only come from hardship, discernment of meaning, and survival.
I couldn’t resist writing down Wiesel’s words of wisdom and advice. Here are some highlights from his speech:
“There’s a Chinese proverb that says, ‘When the finger points at the moon, only the imbecile looks at the finger.’ The teacher’s role is to tell you where to look.”
“The world must know how to learn from its own mistakes.”
“Plato called philosophy the ‘silence of a free man.'”
“Knowledge in itself is not enough — it must have a moral dimension.”
“I am not defined by my relationship with God. I am defined by my relationship with my fellow human beings.”
“Racism: It is not only unfair. It’s not only immoral. It is stupid.”
“I’ve always believed that culture is a shield.”
“The Jew in me still believes in prayer. I don’t have the answer to how come the prayers of children are not received.”
Weisel said he once had a professor who asked him who the most tragic character in the Bible is. The answer? God. “He gave us a world, and look at what we are doing to this world.”
Wisely put, Mr. Wiesel …