The lineup is set for the 2006 January Series of Calvin College and it will feature its usual collection of top-notch experts from around the world, including two speakers who have an interesting connection to the African country of Rwanda.
A pair of Pauls - Paul Farmer and Paul Rusesabagina - will be on Calvin's campus in January 2006 to talk about their experiences trying to make a difference in the world and especially what they have done and are doing in Rwanda.
Farmer was a featured speaker at Time Magazine's recent global health summit where he spoke about his lifelong efforts to bring better medicine to the poor in a talk titled "The Case for Optimism."
The story of Rusesabagina (pronounced ROO SUHSAH BUG EENA) was made famous in the film Hotel Rwanda which documented the courageous steps he took to shelter people during the Rwandan massacres in 1994.
January Series director June Hamersma says that the annual series never has a theme per se, but that this year's slate of 15 speakers features a number of folks who have made a difference in the world.
"It's fitting, I suppose," says Hamersma, "that we have so many difference-makers on the schedule. It's also one of the things that Calvin is known for. We aim to produce graduates at Calvin who will change the world. So, for our students to hear from these speakers about the ways big and small that an impact can be made is a marvelous opportunity. I'm very excited about the lineup of speakers for this coming January."
Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an international charity organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. In Haiti, Farmer and his team built a top-notch public-health system. Now he hopes to make a similar impact in Rwanda.
A decade ago Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager, made a huge impact in his home country, risking his life in the midst of the Rwandan genocide to save 1,268 people from death.
In the spring of 1994, in about just over three months, nearly a million Tutsi were slaughtered - most at the hands of the Hutus. Rusesabagina essentially turned his hotel into a refugee camp, risking his own life in the process. He once told an interviewer that "I really don't know whether I had a special courage. I just take myself as someone who did what he was supposed to do. Who did his job."
Hamersma says other 2006 speakers are equally exceptional and equally humble.
"Many of our speakers have amazing stories and have accomplished incredible things," she says, "but invariably they come to Calvin with no sense of ego, no special demands. They are simply here to tell their stories and perhaps inspire the next generation. It's one of the things that has made the Series so compelling for so many years."
Other 2006 topics will include the new pope, computer security, globalization of the media, chastity, gender and competition, and crime scene investigations.