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The Power to Choose

“You can’t always know what’s going to happen, but you can always know that you have a choice” — Carl Wilkins, the only American to stay in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide.

Mr. Wilkins came to talk to Penn State students last night in order to dissect the events of the Rwandan genocide. He spoke of the horror of massacred friends, but he focused on the courage to choose–to stay, to spend each day driving through roads littered with new mortar shells each hour just to find water, to protect his Tutsi friends as well as his Hutu neighbors who opposed the genocide.

Wilkins also emphasized the importance of relationships. He spoke of his wife’s resilience and support of his decision to stay. He recounted how relationships saved his family, how because his kids played with the neighborhood kids, those same neighbors stood at his gate and refused to let the soldiers sweep through his home.

Finally, he encouraged Penn State students to choose to “enter the world of the other” in order to combat the “us versus them” mentality so potent and destructive in the context of genocide.

For students interested in fighting genocide in a hands-on way, check out Carl Wilkin’s fellowship program on his website.

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About the Author


Lisa is a sophomore majoring in History and Philosophy. She likes peach tea and new information.


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