Dr. Baum: It is now with great pleasure that I introduce to you today’s special guest, Paul Rusesabagina.

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Dr. Baum: Mr. Rusesabagina is a global humanitarian who has become an international symbol for social justice and human rights activism. His story exemplifies how with courage and dedication each of us has the power to rise to greatness and make a positive and profound impact that can change the world. In 1994, as a manager at a luxury hotel in war-laden Rwanda, Mr. Rusesabagina risked his life to shelter refugees during the Rwandan genocide which took an estimated 800,000 lives over the course of only 100 days. His selfless act of bravery saved more than 1200 people, including his own wife and children, from certain death and ignited an international movement to end such violence worldwide. The real-life hero’s riveting story touched many of us when it was chronicled in the critically acclaimed 2004 film “Hotel Rwanda” and in his 2006 autobiography “An Ordinary Man.” Mr. Rusesabagina has dedicated his life to raising awareness and preventing genocide, traveling the globe to share the lessons learned in Rwanda and to spread the message of peace and hope. In 2005, he founded the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation to advance human rights and support those who have been devastated by war and genocide in Rwanda. Hailed a hero for his tireless efforts, Mr. Rusesabagina has received many prestigious awards, including the highest civilian award in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush in 2005. He has also been honored with the National Civil Rights Museum Freedom Award and the Immortal Chaplains Prize for Humanity. His unwavering commitment to his cause and his powerful voice for social change are truly awe inspiring and I am thrilled that he could be here today to share his moving story with us. Please join me in welcoming Paul Rusesabagina.

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Paul Rusesabagina: Please be seated. Good afternoon, Walden.

Audience: Good afternoon.

Paul Rusesabagina: Excellent. This is what I expected. Thank you Dr. Cynthia Baum, president of Walden University, Dr. Eric Riedel, chief academic officer of Walden University, Mrs. Paula Singer, chair of the board of directors who is not with us today because of an emergency, members of the board of directors, faculty, staff of Walden University, graduates joining us in Minneapolis and all around the world as part of this live cast memorable 50th commencement ceremony, family and friends of graduates, members of the community. Before I begin to share today’s message with you, I wanted to take a moment to say how inspired I am to be here with you today and in an auditorium full-- I mean full of social change agents. I have been around the globe and have experienced social change in many forms, so being here today with Walden University, a like-minded organization, feels like I’m among family. I am among friends. I am among colleagues who share my commitment to make our world a better world. As you can see by the sheer number of people here today and joining us online, Walden has a big experience and they make a big difference each and every day as educators, as nurses, counselors, in healthcare, public administration, information technology and the business professionals. You all have the power to use your quality education from Walden and put it to good use in your community and around the whole world. President Baum shared with me some of Walden’s efforts and initiatives to make a difference around the world. I am impressed and very much look forward to all the good you will continue to do to transform the society. You have a few profiles of course who exemplify Walden University. One of those is Kelly Wheeler who, after several mission trips in Latin America, realized that there were a lot of public health issues with the communities she was serving. She followed her passion for public health then and earned her master’s in public health and a PhD in public health in this university. She was born with an unknown genetic disorder that required many surgeries, but Kelly was unsure if she would be even able to attend kindergarten, let alone earn her doctorate. Yet when time came for her to determine her dissertation, she decided to use her own personal experience to develop a quality of life model to help others facing similar situations as herself. For her research, Kelly was recognized as a Walden 2010 Scholar of Change winner. She is now hoping to work with an association to carry out the action plan she developed as part of her research. Today, Kelly is attending the 2013 summer commencement. Isn’t that a miracle?

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Paul Rusesabagina: Almost most individuals will have long since put their careers and educational pursuits behind them, but not Wendell. More than ten years ago, this Austin, Texas resident sold his last radio station and didn’t have anything else to do. Because Wendell enjoyed the academic environment and didn’t want to sit around, he returned to school at St. Edwards and then went for his bachelor’s and master’s degree, but Wendell’s lifelong learning didn’t earn there. He decided to once again return to school to pursue his doctorate degree. He entered Walden University in 2008 to research how personal emotions affect business decisions. Some might think that a completely online institution would be a challenge for someone of his age, but Wendell says he has no fear of technology. Wendell graduated from Walden with his PhD in management and today he is attending this 2013 summer commencement.

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Paul Rusesabagina: I have learned also that Walden University has taken the lead and commissioned a research study, the social change impact report about the state of social change around the world and I’m especially impressed and encouraged by one of the results. Eighty-five percent is an excellent score. Of those surveyed said they had taken action to engage in positive social change in the last six months. No matter whether struggle in the sacrifice, we all have opportunities every day to be leaders in making a positive difference. Dear graduates, through your education at Walden, you’ve been given the tools to create this difference. It’s now part of your DNA and I salute you for that.

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Paul Rusesabagina: My most important congratulations to you, the class of 2013. Today you are members of a big and worldwide family of more than 70,000 alumni extended to 50 different states in this nation and also 65 from 66 different countries on earth in this world.

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Paul Rusesabagina: Dear graduates, in a few minutes, you’ll be given your diplomas. You’ll be crossing the gates of Walden. Keep in mind that life is unpredictable. Keep that in mind. Life is always unpredictable and there are many lessons that we never learn at school and yet they are to be learned. In 1984, when I walked out of my school, my diploma in my hands, I did not realize that I still had a lot to learn until April 1994 when I saw my country descending into chaos and found myself first of all in an obligation to protect my family and later on protecting neighbors and once again taking them to the hotel where I had to protect more than a thousand people. That one you never learn anywhere. I will tell you some of my hard experiences. Let me just mention one. It was on April 9, 1994 when I was turning in my living with one of my neighbors who had fled to my house to seek asylum into my house. Why my house, I really don’t know why and I will never tell you why. Do not ask me that question.

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Paul Rusesabagina: So we were standing in the living and saw soldiers climbing the gate, trying to get into the compound. That was the third day of the genocide. Many of our neighbors had already been killed. Then when my neighbor who was staying with me saw them, he started shaking, telling me that, “Paul, these guys know that I’m in your house. They are looking for me. They want to kill me. Before they come in and kill you and all of these people who are here, let me deliver my skin so that they kill me and feel satisfied.” I looked at him and told him, “Then, Michele, whoever comes to my house is not looking for Michele, but rather for me. Let me go and greet them.” I went to greet them and they seemed to be cool, as you say in America--

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Paul Rusesabagina: -- and calm and they just opened the door and the gate and stated, “Open up a window.” There are many windows of opportunity outside there. In whichever situation you are, there’s always a way in and a way out.

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Paul Rusesabagina: I therefore approached the young captain who was leading the team and told him that, “My friend, can I help you?” He said that a new government has been put up because the former government had been decapitated completely. The president was killed. Many of his ministers were killed with him. His general chief of staff for the army was killed with him. So a new government three days later was put up and they decided to take over my hotel. Then therefore they sent soldiers to come and escort me to the hotel because they needed me. I said, “Okay, I’m the manager, but I cannot leave my family here alone.” They said, “Okay, take everyone. It’s okay. Bring everyone with you.” I brought everyone. We drove a mile away. I saw them slowing down and stopping. Again then they jumped out of the Jeep. I also went and got out of my car and they, almost all of them, there are guns on my head. Handed me over gun and told me that, “Listen, you traitor. You are lucky. We are not killing you today because we need you, but have this gun. Kill all of your cockroaches and these curs.” I knew these guys were not joking. All around the streets, the same street, along the street, there were many dead bodies, some of them rotting, others mutilated, missing their heads. I knew they were not joking. That time after I was scared, that was the scariest moment of my life and I wouldn’t wish to go through a certain experience any more. However, there’s always a way out. I looked at him, at the young captain who was leading the team, and told him that, “My friend, I do not know how to use a gun, but even if I knew, these are not the right enemies I should kill.” I pointed out that old man, a young lady who was holding her daughter, three months old, and said that, “My friend, this young baby does not know what is happening here, but I do understand you.” That day I learned one of the few lessons I would like to share with you today and this was first of all how to deal with evil and second because we dealt, we negotiated, and we came up with a compromise. So that was a kind of baptism and this helped me throughout the whole experience of the genocide and even afterwards. Keep in mind that you always keep learning and after learning how to deal with evil, I learned that words can be the best and wonderful tools of life as they can be the worst weapons in killing. You have your words. With your words you can make people survive and with your words you can kill people. When some of us were using words to save lives, others were using words to kill through the media, radios, ordering people to kill their neighbors. Even killing became a job through the media. “Help us to fill the graves. They are not yet full.” Words are the most important tools of life. That was my second lesson. Third, one of the third lesson I learned, wherever you go, whatever you do, if you have a chance to stockpile a favor here and there, please do it. You will never know--

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Paul Rusesabagina: Thank you. Thank you. You do never know what tomorrow will look like. That helps very, very much. Throughout the whole genocide, this is my fourth lesson I learned. I listened to my inner. Each and every one of us has got a special advisor. That advisor who will never confuse right to wrong is our own conscience. Let us listen to ourselves. The majority is always the majority, but the majority will never always be right. So I have been trying to be guided by my own conscience and I would advise you also to always come up with a compromise with yourself. It always helps. Another lesson, a fifth lesson, is that let me tell you, my dear friends, graduates, very soon you’ll be leaders and leaders must try to stay calm and focused and if possible get all the stakeholders involved in what is going on. I had this experience in 1994 when I had a family to deal with when I heard the refugees and I had to get everybody involved in what is being done, that is the only way to succeed. That time my mission was to survive. Your mission, ladies and gentlemen, graduates, is to succeed. That is your mission. If your mission is to succeed, go ahead and succeed. This is my wish. Ladies and gentlemen, dear graduates, Walden has empowered you to make a social change, to make it happen. Your mission is to make a social change happen. Around not only in this school, not only in America, but around the whole world. My message to you today is that you go out there, you shape the world the way you want it to be, the better. Thank you. God bless you.

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Paul Rusesabagina: Thank you.

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