On the evening of Nov. 13, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum honored the Coca-Cola Company, Charles Ackerman and Bernie and Billi Marcus for their tremendous contributions with a tribute dinner at the Georgia Aquarium.
“What You Do Matters” was the theme of the event, which was hosted by Michael Morris. Beyond the heartwarming sight of Holocaust survivors in attendance standing to be recognized, the proceedings in their entirety were enlightening and inspirational.
Javier Goizueta spoke on behalf of Coca-Cola, explaining the company’s reasons for supporting the Museum and detailing its humanitarian efforts throughout the world. Similarly, Charles Ackerman made a heartfelt speech about the importance of the Museum and his involvement with it; an early supporter and Founder, his hard work helped make its construction a reality.
Bernie and Billi Marcus were unable to attend, but granddaughter Alex Morris spoke on their behalf. Even as a last-minute substitution for another family representative, she was poised and articulate, showing grace under pressure and serving as proof of her grandparents’ efforts to strengthen future generations.
Finally, keynote speaker Clemantine Wamariya amazed the crowd with her story of courage and understanding. Her life as a Rwandan genocide survivor proves that the phrase “never again” is as relevant today as it was some 60 years ago.
Wamariya was just six years old when slaughter in earnest began in her homeland. It brought tears to many eyes as she recounted her disbelief and dismay at the killings; she recalled asking herself how her closest friends could stand idly by, and how the neighbor she trusted and affectionately called “Auntie” could acquiesce to the horrific acts.
From the subsequent years spent traveling with her sister from one terrible refugee camp to another, she took a hope that no one will be subjected to such conditions again.
Today, Wamariya is a Yale student and last year was appointed by President Obama to serve a five-year term on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council. As part of the Museum’s mission, she speaks openly about her story to alert the national conscience, influence policy-makers and stimulate worldwide action to confront and halt acts of genocide and related crimes against humanity.
BY CLIFF WEISS / Editor-in-Chief