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Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, to Speak at University of Hartford

Posted 03/01/2013
Posted by David Isgur

To mark the launch of its Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative, the University of Hartford’s Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies brings the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame to campus on Tuesday, March 12. President Kagame will speak at 11 a.m. in Lincoln Theater about the future of his country in an address titled “Vision 20/20.” The event is free and open to the public, but tickets must be ordered by noon on Friday, March 8, through the University box office at 860.768.4228 or

President Kagame is serving his second seven-year term as president of the central African nation. In early 1994, Rwanda experienced what many feel was Africa's worst genocide in modern times. Kagame led the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) that fought against and eventually defeated the genocidal government in July, 1994.

The Maurice Greenberg Center’s new Genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative will preserve the memories of the Holocaust and genocides worldwide and help spread the lessons that need to be learned from them. The initiative’s activities will include courses, workshops, public programs, exhibitions, and web-based projects. The initiative will allow for the wide dissemination and distribution of materials for teaching about the Holocaust and genocide to educators in the Greater Hartford community and across the nation. 

Helping to advance this major new initiative will be Joseph Olzacki, who was recently named a special advisor on genocide and Holocaust education at the Greenberg Center. Olzacki brings more than 20 years of experience as an educator in Connecticut schools to the position. He has received national attention for his innovative curriculum, the “Identity Project,” and has experience teaching about genocide prevention and strengthening student identities through the arts.

The Greenberg Center is also hosting a symposium at 3:30 p.m. that in Wilde Auditorium to celebrate the launch of its new initiative. The symposium, titled “After the Trauma of the Holocaust and Genocide: Survival, Memorialization, and Reconstruction,” will bring together distinguished scholars from New England universities tol discuss genocide and Holocaust education. They are:

Avinoam Patt, the Philip D. Feltman Professor of Modern Jewish History and director of the Museum of Jewish Civilization at the University of Hartford, who will moderate the discussion;

Lisa J. Laplante, law professor and human rights scholar and researcher and interim director of the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut, who will speak on “Post-Conflict Recovery and Transitional Justice;”

Steven Rosenthal, professor of history at University of Hartford, who will speak on “The proliferation of genocides in the 20th century;”

Mari Firkatian, professor of history at the University of Hartford, who will speak about “Remembering the Armenian Genocide;”

Shyamala Raman, professor of economics and international studies at the University of St. Joseph, who will speak on “Vision 20/20 in Rwanda and the Millennium Development Goals;” and

Sara Brown, Doctoral Candidate in Holocaust and genocide studies at Clark University, who will speak on “The Genocide in Rwanda: Perpetrators, Victims, Rescuers and Recovery.”

The symposium is free and open to the public. Area high school and university students are strongly encouraged to attend. For more information on the symposium, contact the Greenberg Center at 860.768.4964 or

Republic of Rwanda President Paul Kagame, 54, was sworn in as President for a second seven-year term on Sept. 6, 2010. Kagame, who was born in Rwanda’s Southern Province, fled with his family from pre-independence ethnic persecution and violence in 1960, crossing into Uganda where Kagame spent 30 years as a refugee. In 1990, he returned to Rwanda to lead the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s (RPF) four-year struggle to liberate the country from the autocratic and divisive order established since independence. Led by Kagame, the Rwanda Patriotic Army defeated the genocidal government in July 1994 and the RPF subsequently set Rwanda on its current course towards reconciliation, nation building and socioeconomic development.

 Kagame was appointed Vice-President and Minister for Defense in the Government of National Unity on July 19, 1994, and four years later was elected Chairman of the RPF, a partner in the Government of National Unity. On April 22, 2000, Paul Kagame took the oath of office for the first time, after being elected by the Transitional National Assembly.

President Kagame has received recognition for his leadership in peace building and reconciliation, development, good governance, promotion of human rights and women’s empowerment, and advancement of education and information and communication technologies (ICT), and is widely sought after to address regional and international audiences on a range of issues including African development, leadership, and the potential of ICT as a dynamic industry as well as an enabler for Africa’s socioeconomic transformation.

For more than 20 years, the Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies has been a leader in Holocaust and genocide education through its annual workshops and exhibitions on Holocaust and genocide. The new initiative will continue and expand upon these efforts and introduce an online site that will preserve the testimonies of second and third generation stories of genocide and the Holocaust and make them available to teachers worldwide.

Joseph Olzacki has had international experience with student and teacher travel programs and inter-religious music and cultural programs and has been working, traveling and learning about Rwanda and genocide education there since 2008. Olzacki has worked with local, regional, national, and international groups in music education and teacher training and was named an “educator of the year” by the Hartford Symphony Orchestra for his work marrying arts into the curriculum and was named a 2010 “Mover and Shaker” by the Connecticut Jewish Ledger.. He is an alumnus of the University of Hartford and the only person to have earned four degrees from the University — two undergraduate degrees, one in politics and government and the other in music management and conducting; and  two graduate degrees, a master’s in music education in conducting and an ED.D in Education Leadership.

This genocide and Holocaust Education Initiative also is a project of an international consortium of universities and the Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide in Jerusalem, founded by Israel W. Charny. In Fall, 2013, the Museum of Jewish Civilization at the University of Hartford will host an exhibition: “Dreams and Nightmares: Genocide Prevention Now and Israel W. Charny.”

For more information, contact Avinoam Patt at or 860.768.5018.