To combat repression, racism and anti-Semitism, victims must speak out and schools must teach morals, said Wiesel, the Nobel laureate and author of 57 books, who has campaigned against genocide while sharing his own story as a Holocaust survivor.
"When one person is a victim of injustice anywhere, we can never choose silence as an option," he told a crowd of 1,000 at the school's sports complex and another 100 watching him on a screen at the student union.
For an hour, Wiesel, 81, spoke to a rapt crowd about his conversations with six American presidents and other world leaders, as well as his readings of Shakespeare, Sophocles and Plato.
Wiesel pointed out that before 9/11, he and others warned humanity was imperiled by suicide terrorists who don't fear the consequences of killing others. He called on all nations and religious leaders to declare suicide terrorism a crime against humanity: "It won't stop these killers, but it will stop their accomplices."
Wiesel said he was devastated to read recent reports that 2009 had the highest number of incidents of anti-Semitism worldwide since the end of World War II. Similarly distressing, he said, was the fact that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has spoken of using a nuclear bomb to kill 6 million Jews in Israel, is frequently received abroad as a respected world leader.
"This man should be arrested, brought to The Hague and indicted for a crime against humanity," Wiesel said.
Throughout his speech, Wiesel alluded to his own family's tragic story. In 1944, Germans sent his family to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. His sister and mother died while Wiesel and his father were forced to labor together under brutal conditions. His father died of illness and starvation just months before American liberators arrived.
Wiesel still has his Auschwitz inmate number, A-7713, tattooed on his left arm.
Wiesel concluded by telling students, "When you leave this school, think higher, feel deeper and then hope will become not only a necessity but also a possibility."
The audience sent him off with a prolonged standing ovation. "Given that the survivor community gets smaller and smaller, who is going to tell the story 10 years from now, or 20 years from now?" said David Machlis, an Adelphi business professor who returned this week from a trip to Auschwitz.
Lena Resnick, 21, a senior from Queens, has heard about the Holocaust since childhood because all four of her grandparents were survivors. "It's great to see someone who is a beacon of hope," she said.