Thursday, November 1, 2012

Staff Picks

An Ordinary Man redefines powerful!

Paul Rusesabagina titled his autobiography An Ordinary Man, but it’s impossible to call him that.
You may be familiar with Rusesabagina’s story from the film Hotel Rwanda.  Whether or not you’ve seen the film, An Ordinary Man is an awe-inspiring autobiography and well worth your time.  I’ll suggest this book for students in college and high school as well as adults.  It may seem an unlikely choice due to the chilling subject matter, but the story is really amazing.

Here’s some very brief history of the war in Rwanda.  Rising tensions between Hutu and Tutsi populations reached a dramatic climax in the spring of 1994 when Hutu rebels shot down the plane carrying the President of Rwanda.  Foreign visitors were immediately evacuated.  Peacekeeping troops were removed.  Tutsi families were driven from their homes-- often by former friends, coworkers, or neighbors-- and killed on the streets.  An estimated 800,000 people, including the elderly, women, children, and infants, were killed in the span of 100 days.  The war in Rwanda has been called a civil war, but it may be more accurate to call it a bloodbath. 

Unlikely events placed Paul Rusesabagina in the position of manager at the Hotel Mille Collines.  With no weapons or defenses, he turned the hotel into a refuge for anyone fortunate enough to make it there.  I can’t stop marveling at what he used to placate the homicidal rebels: currency from the hotel safe and bottled beer from the restaurant.  His notebook of personal contacts also proved invaluable.  With those few items and unfathomable courage, this “ordinary man” saved 1,268 refugees from certain death.  

You’ll find much to be inspired by in this short autobiography and some eye-opening lessons in world politics as well.  Here’s one quote of many that I particularly like:   

“Words can be instruments of evil, but they can also be powerful tools of life.  If you say the right ones they can save the whole world.” 

If you’re interested in someone with extraordinary character who defies incredible odds, check out An Ordinary Man.  It’s a story you’ll never forget.

Alicia Cavitt
Information Specialist