Today, the word “empathy” is thrown around often. Folks often use this word to mitigate a previous comment that was fundamentally unempathetic.
Elie Wiesel, to my knowledge, never used the word “empathy” in class, but he exhibited it in character and practice. I vividly remember his telling the story of meeting with Slobodan Milošević. The genocidal president tried appealing to Wiesel through villainizing the Muslim faith of his victims, a ploy that fell on deaf ears. Race, religion or creeds are secondary to humanity. As a college student, I was blessed to witness empathy in its purest form.
I’d like to add that he also instilled in me the belief that art is the most powerful way to influence change. While few today know the governing laws of 415-BCE Greece, Euripides is still performed in high schools across the country, and the Trojan Women teach us lessons of empathy in 2016 as powerful as opening night in Athens.
I’m grateful to have the gift of viewing humanity through the lenses of Atticus Finch and Elie Wiesel.
—Peter Hinga ’04