I've spent the last week or so staying up too late, and - the world may be lurching to some vast sea change - getting up at hours that are far too freakishly early.
The largest reason lies in my work. A team effort in the newsroom to mark the April 19 opening of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, in the making for about two months, has eaten up my time in very good, albeit emotionally draining, ways. Now, the stories have been researched, done, the Museum has been toured, the official opening has been experienced, and an incredibly riveting symposium on the role of media in genocide has been absorbed. (And a long involved sentence written in criminally passive voice, has been ended.)
At the end of it all, I don't mind any of the lost sleep or begrudge one minute of time spent on the small amount of work I donated to the newsroom effort.
I don't have the words to adequately express what I feel for the people who 28 years ago founded the Illinois Holocaust Memorial Foundation, the parent of the new museum. That's when a tiny group of Holocaust survivors, most of whom lived in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, decided that education was one of the noblest things one could do to commemorate the lost millions who hadn't survived Nazi horror - and that it was also one of the strongest tools available to render impotent the hate and ignorance that bred the Holocaust.
They pooled their own money, scrimped, saved, borrowed, built their first museum in a tiny store front, did their own repairs to keep it going, gathered Holocaust artifacts and invaluable historical research material, acted as a repository for thousands of videotaped survivors' stories, and created a speakers bureau and education program that interacted with teachers and school students across the midwest. Their first president was a major reason Illinois is one of only eight states to mandate Holocaust education in elementary schools.
Almost from the beginning, and most certainly now, the survivors have also insisted that it is their responsibility to publicize, oppose and educate about other genocides, no matter where they arise in the world.
Many of the men and women I first met years ago are now gone. Those survivors who remain have been joined in their work by children, friends, admirers and supporters, but they are still the heart of organization. I've dealt with many of them on an intermittent basis for 20 of those years, and I have rarely met a group of people with such an indomitable spirit or such an unbelievable faith in the idea that humans can be turned from evil with enough work - that they can choose to turn away from evil with enough support.
The new museum and education center opened with the motto "Remember the Past. Transform the Future." Although there are Holocaust memorials and museums elsewhere, in Washington D.C., in New York, on the west coast and, of course, at Yad Vashem in Israel, this museum serves the country's heartland. It is also undoubtedly the last major Holocaust-related museum to be created and opened by survivors themselves.
For decades, the men and women who fought evil simply by surviving have transcended their first victory, over and over again. With the new museum's opening, they have honored their mission in ways I find incredibly humbling and uplifting.
If you're within a day's drive of Chicago, come to visit the museum. If you're not, at least read about what it's doing, right here.