September 30, would have been the 88th birthday of Elie Wiesel, the writer, teacher, activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor who passed away earlier this year. To honor his memory, we're sharing this speech Wiesel gave at the White House in 1999. Titled "The Perils of Indifference," it allows us to remember this fine man by his words, which prove inspiring, insightful, intellectual, impassioned, and anything but indifferent. May his memory be a blessing.
Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor -- never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees -- not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity we betray our own.
Indifference, then, is not only a sin, it is a punishment. And this is one of the most important lessons of this outgoing century's wide-ranging experiments in good and evil…
What about the children? Oh, we see them on television, we read about them in the papers, and we do so with a broken heart. Their fate is always the most tragic, inevitably. When adults wage war, children perish. We see their faces, their eyes. Do we hear their pleas? Do we feel their pain, their agony? Every minute one of them dies of disease, violence, famine. Some of them -- so many of them -- could be saved.
And so, once again, I think of the young Jewish boy from the Carpathian Mountains. He has accompanied the old man I have become throughout these years of quest and struggle. And together we walk towards the new millennium, carried by profound fear and extraordinary hope.