I have had the pleasure of visiting the Canadian Museum For Human Rights numerous times since the opening in 2014. The first time I visited, I spent 4 hours walking through the beautiful architecture and soaking in every exhibit. I left with a sense of bewilderment.
How could such tragedies in the world happen? How could people let them happen?
But I also left with a sense of hope, and confidence within my own voice. In 1986, Elie Wiesel, author of Night won the Nobel Peace Prize for being a “messenger to mankind.” In his acceptance speech there is a segment that reads:
“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”
Sometimes, it’s hard to believe in yourself, to believe that you have the power to make a difference.
Imagine you have just finished watching a play. You loved it! You want to give a standing ovation because they deserve to know just how much you enjoyed it. But no one else is standing. You shift in your seat. You scan the audience, looking for someone else to stand first but no one moves. It takes a moment, but you get out of your own head, forget everyone else, and let yourself stand. You lock eyes with the actor and they beam a big smile. Soon, the entire audience is on their feet. You are surrounded by people who felt the same way but were too afraid to stand first. Someone had to take the first step.
After hearing Elie Wiesel’s speech, I chose to make a conscience effort to never be silent, never remain neutral. The museum shows stories of genocide, hate, and the violation of human rights. It is open and raw about all that has happened in this world, especially those we are not proud of.
When you walk around the museum, you see that there are problems in this world and people who love to hate… but there is also something stronger: people who love, people who care, people who use their voice to create change.
Now, every time I leave the museum I vow to myself that I will smile at someone who needs it, speak up when someone needs a voice, and stand up when everyone else is sitting. The next time you visit the museum, make a vow to yourself whatever it may be.
Promise to spread light and positivity in the world.