The Age of Genocide

Tuesday, November 15, 2005
2005 Morgan Lecture
The Age of Genocide
Anita Tuvin Schlechter Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.

Issue in Context
Genocide is defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as the deliberate and systematic destruction,“in whole or in part of a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”

During World War II, Winston Churchill stated that the world was facing “a crime without a name.” In the wake of the Holocaust, Raphael Lemkin, a Polish legal scholar, sought to formulate a term that could encompass the killings, the objectives, and the methods of the Nazis against the Jewish population of Europe. Lemkin coined the word “genocide” from the Greek “genos” (race or tribe) and the Latin suffix “cide” (to kill). Lemkin’s struggle for the universal recognition of international law defining and forbidding genocide brought about the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

Remembering the Holocaust, American leaders such as Jimmy Carter and George Bush, Sr. promised that “never again will the world fail to act in time to prevent this terrible crime,” but the history of the 20th century proved that genocide happened again and again across the globe. Why have American policy makers failed to act and prevent genocide? Because they fail, or refuse, to recognize genocide when it occurs; they believe that nonintervention is cheaper and safer, especially if it is coupled by public indifference; they calculate that intervention would be futile; and they oppose active involvement at all costs. “It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on.” (Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide”)

About the Speaker
Samantha Power is a professor of Human Rights Practice at the John F. Kennedy School of Government. Her book, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide, a scholarly analysis of America’s policy toward genocide in the twentieth century, was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction, the 2003 National Book Critics Circle Award for general non-fiction, and the Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Prize for the best book in the U.S. foreign policy. Power’s New Yorker article on the horrors in Darfur, Sudan won the 2005 National Magazine award for best reporting. Power was the founding executive director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (1998-2002). From 1993-1996, Power covered the wars in the former Yugoslavia as a reporter for the U.S. News and World Report, the Boston Globe, and The Economist. Power is the editor, with Graham Allison, of Realizing Human Rights: Moving from Inspiration to Impact (St. Martin’s, 2000). In 2004, Time Magazine selected Samantha Power as one of the 100 most influential people who have shaped how we see the world and ourselves in the Time 100: Scientists and Thinkers ranking. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, she moved to the United States from Ireland at the age of nine. She is currently completing a book on the United Nations, while working as a foreign policy fellow in the office of U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

Related Links
• Dying in Darfur: Can the ethnic cleansing in Sudan be stopped? by Samantha Power
• Ghosts of Rwanda – PBS Frontline interview with Samantha Power
• Bystanders to Genocide by Samantha Power
• Prevent Genocide International
• Genocide Watch