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A Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda

By Beth Kieffer Leonard

Beth recently traveled on an Insight Trip to Rwanda and graciously shared about her experience after visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre.

Rwanda changed my life (and not just because of the gorillas, although that was part of it).

With the specter of the Holocaust a permanent part of my psyche since reading Elie Wiesel's Night when I was 10 years old, genocide's horror has always been just below the surface for me. For years, I tried to discover how the world could turn its back on human beings and commit genocide. I've been to Holocaust museums and concentration camps and places where the rebirth of the slaughtered has started again.

Rwanda, with its movement toward reconciliation, felt different to me.

The genocide in 1994 started in the same way many do – with systematic degradation, dehumanization and oppression. One group making the other less than human, by comparing them to animals and stripping them of all rights. And the worst part was, again, the world's response - allowing the slaughter of innocent people in the name of their differences.

However, Rwanda is a place where the rebirth of humanity and hope far outpaces the horror of only 20 years ago. Where gentle people have embraced one another to bring themselves and their neighbors out of the darkness to hope. They remember the past every day and, if pressed, tell their stories of horror. They tell it with tears and pain for what they lost, but somehow without anger and hate. They have picked themselves up from the chaos and ashes to embrace a Rwandan identity which looks completely different from their past. They look forward to being a light unto the continent, to lead with honesty and to treat each other and their country with respect. "Never forget" is at the forefront of their daily lives.

Surely they have a long way to go to prove that reconciliation will withstand any setbacks. They are learning to live together as one people again, instead of broken into factions who cannot survive together. Yet this rebuilding – this reconciliation – is the difference and the inspiration of Rwanda. It should be celebrated as an example of the best of humanity and a lesson for the world in its effort to never forget.

Beth Kieffer Leonard is the managing partner of Lurie Besikof Lapidus & Company, LLP. In her role, Beth has led the Firm's sponsorship and support of business opportunities for a wide-range of clients. LBL has a strong entrepreneurial culture and Beth continues the tradition through her leadership.

With her energetic approach to strategic partnerships, valuable insights, business development skills, and her vast network of advisors, Beth consults with her clients to help them achieve their goals. Her areas of expertise are as varied as the businesses in our community.

Beth's leadership has been acknowledged by numerous national and regional associations, including "Women in Business Champion" for the Small Business Administration—Minnesota, and the Advocacy Award from the Women's Business Development Center in Chicago. Beth was recently honored among the state's "(Real) Power 50" leaders by Minnesota Business. She was also recognized among the "2012 Top Women in Finance" by Finance & Commerce.

Beth received her Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting at the University of Minnesota—Carlson School of Management. She is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants. She is active in numerous community and professional organizations.

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