2011 LANTOS HUMAN RIGHTS PRIZE RECIPIENT
Paul Rusesabagina is the real life hero of the acclaimed film Hotel Rwanda and the President of the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation. During the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, Rusesabagina served as manager of the Hotel des Mille Collines and bravely risked his life to shelter over 1,200 Hutus and Tutsis. His story was also chronicled in his 2006 autobiography, An Ordinary Man. In 2000, Rusesabagina received the Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity. In 2005, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush, the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award and the Humanitarian Award from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation.
"Seventeen years ago, when Rwanda desperately needed to be the center of the universe, the world instead turned away. As a genocidal assault was unleashed on the Tutsi people, the community of nations, to their everlasting shame, stood by and did nothing. And as a consequence, nearly one million Rwandans were massacred in just 100 days. But while the mighty and powerful found reasons and excuses to turn away, Paul Rusesabagina, a self-described ordinary man, did not turn away. Paul’s brave and profoundly decent actions as the manager of the Hotel des Milles Collines, saved the lives of over 1,200 Tutsis and moderate Hutus who had taken refuge in his hotel.
What is remarkable about Paul Rusesabagina’s achievement is it was not the result of a grandiose plant to thwart the evil that was raging outside the gates of his hotel, no, not at all. Paul would be the first to say that minute to minute, day to day, making it up as he went along, he was simply determined to do one more thing to save lives for one more day. Where did he find the strength and humanity to do this? To live out the idea that he was indeed his brothers’ and his sisters’ keeper? I don’t know. But I do know that we can perhaps hope to find similar strength and humanity from following his example." - Katrina Lantos Swett, 2011 Lantos Prize Ceremony