Tuesday, March 5, 2019
The only American to remain in Kigali, Rwanda, throughout the 1994 genocide, Carl Wilkens ventured out each day into streets crackling with mortars and gunfire and worked his way through roadblocks of angry, bloodstained soldiers and civilians armed with machetes and assault rifles in order to bring food, water and medicine to groups of orphans trapped around the city. Working with Rwandan colleagues, they helped save the lives of hundreds. His harrowing yet hopeful journey weaves together stories of tremendous risk and fierce compassion in the midst of senseless slaughter and promotes how to “enter the world of the Other.”
Carl Wilkens's storytelling does not stop with Rwanda’s tragic history, but moves forward to the powerful and inspiring recovery process. Among the many lessons he shares from his experience is the transformative belief that we don’t have to be defined by what we lost or our worst choices. We can be defined by what we do with what remains—what we do next after terrible choices and how to “enter the world of the Other.”
In 2011, Wilkens completed a book detailing those days titled “I’m Not Leaving.” A 40-minute documentary by the same title has since been released. Each year he returns to Rwanda with students and educators to see for themselves how people are working together to rebuild their country and rebuild trust.
Through his not-for-profit, World Outside my Shoes, Wilkens facilitates meaningful conversations under the broad umbrella of learning to live together and to inspire and equip people to stand up against genocide, racism, and intolerance.
Mr. Wilkens’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at CMC.
Food for Thought: Podcast with Carl Wilkens