The All-College Hour Speaker Series on Wednesday Nov. 13 featured John Dau, one of the surviving Lost Boys of Sudan featured in the 2006 Documentary God Grew Tired of Us.
Dau was born in Southern Sudan, and in 1987, when he was just 12 years old, the northern Arab government ravaged his village, and Dau was forced to flee.
What followed was a torturous three-month journey to Ethiopia riddled with the threat of starvation, disease and dehydration. Dau described his period of struggle – how he was put in charge of a group of nearly 200 other lost boys in which two or three children died each day, their bodies thrown into shallow graves, or worse, mangled by hyenas. Still, Dau asserts his mantra, which he proclaimed several times during his lecture: “We didn’t give up.”
From Ethiopia, Dau traveled to Kenya, where he first attended school, and in 2001 he came to the United States. He now resides in Syracuse, where he is pursuing a college degree from Syracuse University and said he is “living the American Dream.”
Dau said he believes there are two main reasons he survived such hardships: perseverance and believing in the eventual resolution of his troubles.
“In my culture, we have a saying that goes, ‘Every serious problem has an end,’” he said.
Dau referenced the problems faced by former President George Washington and his army in the American Revolution as well as America’s struggles leading up to and during the Civil War. Though the situations were dire, the struggling and suffering came to an end, and the heroes prevailed. Dau asked his audience to reflect on their own struggles and to ask themselves, if all of these people are able to persevere and prevail in the end, why can’t we?
“I believe in things like suffering,” Dau said. He pointed to a chair and said, “In order for this chair to become beautiful, it had to go through a fire to be molded into something we like. So, as human beings, we must go through suffering so that we are molded and made anew in whatever we are doing.”
Dau said he also believes that he triumphed with the help of God.
“God helped me and spared my life … to help other people,” he said.
“It’s so sweet to give back to a community that raised you,” Dau said. “This is what I am doing today. I’m giving back to the people in Africa.”
He asked that we all contribute and give back to our own community.
“Don’t think about what happened in your past,” he said. “Forgive yourself. Forgive what happened in your life, and you will be able to move forward from here.”