Menchú addresses diversity, gender issues

Meghan Parmentier

David Ives, the executive director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, got one step closer to achieving his goal of getting all of the Nobel Peace Prize winners to campus this past Monday, Oct. 27. Rigoberta Menchú Tum, a Human Rights Activist who won the 1992 Nobel Peace Prize, presented “The Life and Times of Rigoberta Menchú Tum” in a packed Recreation Center.

Menchú, wearing the traditional clothing of Guatemala, described her Mayan culture, chronicled the horrific torture her family endured, and advocated for women in politics while describing her experience as a female presidential candidate in Guatemala.

“You would have thought that I had conquered Rome, but actually I was a wallflower at a party. I don’t want to be a wallflower at any party. I want to be an active agent of change,” Menchú said. “To be a president in any country is a great challenge. I hope all of you go out to vote. If you don’t vote, don’t make any demands after.”

Menchú lost, but has a number of other impressive accomplishments on her resume. She is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, has returned to Guatemala three times to plead for peace despite threats on her life, co-founded The Nobel Women’s Initiative in 2006 to advocate women’s rights, written two books about her life, and formed the political party Encuentro por Guatemala in 2007.

One of the last topics she addressed was how to bring the celebration of diversity and sensitivity to difference to Quinnipiac University in light of the recent hate crimes.

“It seems that it is a local problem, but in reality it is a global problem. There is exclusionism and intolerance and the violence is harsh. I say the struggle for all of you is to teach your students not only to get a diploma, but the social mission of education profoundly forming a community,” Menchú said.

QU101 professor Mark Hoffman took advantage of connections that could be made through her lecture, since all QU101 students were mandated to attend.

“It was definitely a good idea to have every freshman attend because it serves the mission of the university and the course,” Hoffman said.

The New York Times has reported and proven that certain aspects of her story, particularly the eye-witness accounts she tells of watching her brothers die, have been fabricated. However, Hoffman said that this has not distorted the impact of her message.

“Personally, I feel what she has done is controversial, but as long as we understand the bigger context, it is an interesting opportunity to allow those students who were interested to reach their own conclusion,” Hoffman said.

Menchú urged the Quinnipiac community to be tolerant. She said, “we have to humanize all that we touch, all that we do once again.”
Menchú said, “if you understand how the world truly is, then you can truly be a tremendous leader.”