Each year the recipient of the Wallenberg Medal is invited to present a lecture at the University of Michigan. The medalists take the stage at Rackham Auditorium and share their stories with an audience drawn from our campus and many surrounding communities.
Each Lecture is different. In some years, survivors of Nazi persecution recounted their physical resistance in face of hellish danger. In others, medalists considered the effect over the years that the bravery of friends and family has had on the course of history. Lectures have been given by politicians who explain why they resisted unjust governments and, in turn, worked to develop a new order, honoring their personal vision with decades of public service. Some medalists have focused on their missions: to reject a life of wealth and rescue people who are literally slaves of corrupt businesses; to devote a life to the non-violent and peaceful pursuit of human rights.
What the Wallenberg Lecturers have in common is their ability to inspire all with their vision, and the reality of their strength to act upon that vision. Here is the power of an eyewitness account to convince us that, although evil truly occurs, with moral courage individual actions effect a change in the world. In their Lectures, the Wallenberg medalists reveal a common characteristic: they acted selflessly without expectation of reward. The Lectures are profiles of moral excellence in ordinary people. The words of the medalists help us to imagine how it is that some can see all people as human; they share a vision of human dignity.