July 22, 2016
“January 5, 2015,” is written in the heading of the journal page I kept for the first day of class with Dr. Wiesel. Just beneath the date, I have underlined the theme of the course, “Memory,” followed by one of the first things Dr. Wiesel whispered to us: “Every moment with you is a moment of grace.” I believe it was our teacher who created those moments. When he entered the room, a hush would fall upon the class, and the following few hours were filled with some of the most insightful, vulnerable and graceful moments I have ever shared with my fellow Eckerd classmates.
Our small college was so fortunate to have been chosen by Dr. Wiesel as a place to teach. He understood the essence of what a liberal arts education tries to impart to its students: what it means to be human and to think higher and to feel deeper. I first learned about existentialism through our literary explorations of the works of Camus and Sartre. In one of my journal entries, in the margin of the paper, I have written and circled: “Dr. Wiesel hopes to influence us subconsciously in moral decisions throughout the rest of our lives!” Sure enough, throughout my experience at Eckerd, I have found myself returning to what was learned in his classroom. I have felt loneliness when in a crowded room, despair when reading newspaper headlines about violence across the world, and hopelessness when thinking about the state of our environment. And yet (his beautiful, favorite two words), I learned to strive on. We referred to Dylan Thomas’s poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night,” and to “rage against the dying of the light.” We discussed how we could ever possibly know “the other,” why we should always continue trying and the importance of bringing testament to their lives.
Through Dr. Wiesel’s memory, his books and his teachings, we will continue to strive on. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have studied under one of the most defining figures of peace of our time. Thank you.
—Haley Burger ’16