Recipient of the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize, the 83-year-old Wiesel spoke for nine spellbinding minutes at commencement after receiving an honorary doctorate in humane letters.
Also honored were Louise Repage Kaufman '75 M'78, outgoing chair of the Wagner College Board of Trustees; and Howard Braren '50, board member, Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, and co-founder of the Wagner Heritage Society.
In his address, Wiesel mischievously mentioned his most famous book, his Holocaust memoir Night: “When I came, some of you stopped me and said, 'I read your book,' in singular. The naïf in me would have asked, 'Which one?' But I am generous, and I didn't.”
He admitted that Night is “special … in [his] life,” because without it, he would not have written any of his others, which number more than 50.
His main purpose, echoed in his many other speeches around the world, is to challenge his audience with the question of what the world has learned since the Holocaust. Despite the bleak evidence of continuing racism, war, anti-Semitism, and extreme poverty, he encouraged the students to take a stand against hatred and despair.
“The thing not to forget is hope,” he concluded. “Remember that hope is not a gift given from God to us; hope is a gift, an offering, that only we human beings can give to one another.”
Photo of Elie Wiesel by Nick Romanenko.
For the first time this year, Wagner broadcast commencement live on the Internet. Visitors from 29 countries tuned in; the top five in terms of numbers of visitors were:
1. United States