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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Four Ways to Eliminate Prejudice

Red Tails: UNSUNG HEROES of WWII finally get the proper recognition on the screen

Thought for the day: It is ironic that wars sometimes help in the battle against prejudice. What other ways have you found that help in the fight to eliminate prejudice? There are many other amazing programs that help. Please share them with me.

     I hate war. I hate war movies as well. Usually I avoid violent movies like the plague. I cannot tolerate violence in films. This weekend, however, after hearing about Red Tails on Charlie Rose, I decided to see the film. I admit there were a few scenes when I had to turn my head away from the screen, but I was glad I went.  I knew the story of the first African-American pilots to fly in a combat squadron during World War II before coming to the theater. I saw the PBS documentary, The Tuskegee Airmen - They Fought Two Wars, a few years ago. However, Hollywood has a way of fighting prejudice by relaying stories that get to the heart, whereas, documentaries avoid these emotions since they try to be more objective. Movies, therefore, are one of the most powerful tools in fighting prejudice, especially if followed by thoughtful discussion.
     I won't ruin the movie for you, but I had mixed emotions of shame, anger & pride in my country while watching the story of the Tuskegee Airmen. I was ashamed that my country, in the midst of a war against a tyrant who justified genocide of human beings for religious beliefs, race, disabilities, or ethnicity could treat citizens fighting for their country with such prejudice & disrespect. I was angry that time was wasted holding back & endangering such heroic brave men given inadequate planes while the crematories were killing millions of people. But as I watched, I also was proud of the progress that our military & our country has made since WWII.
      I am a strong believer that good things often happen due to tragedies. The Tuskegee Airmen did fight two battles. History shows us that they won on both fronts. How much as changed was evident yesterday when President Obama used the military example as a model for congress. He said, "We can learn from the service of our troops... When you put on that uniform, it doesn’t matter if you’re black or white, Asian or Latino, conservative or liberal, rich or poor, gay or straight. When you’re marching into battle, you look out for the person next to you, or the mission fails, ...When you’re in the thick of the fight, you rise or fall as one unit, serving one nation, leaving no one behind.” Ironically,  war is a second way to fight prejudice. However, since I am a pacifist at heart, I would never start a real war to try to end prejudice.
     The third & forth ways are related to education as a means to eliminate prejudice. Two very different nonprofit organizations featured in my book, The Wake Up And Dream Challenge, are helping to fight the war on prejudice. The first, Camp Young Judaea, TX, is a camp I attended for nine years from when I was 8 to 17 years old. The second, Elimination of Prejudice, has dedicated its efforts to the battle against prejudice since 1895.
     You may be wondering why I believe that a Jewish summer camp is one of the ways to eliminate prejudice. This camp is geared towards offering it's campers a huge dose of Jewish education. It encourages campers to build pride in their heritage & lifelong commitment to Jewish values. Those two variables are what make it a powerful way to fight prejudice. I believe that pride in one's heritage is the foundation of tolerance for others. Bigotry is based on ignorance & feelings of inferiority. When someone feels strong & confident, they do not need to put down others. A strong person is not intimidated by the strengths of other people. Every religion, race & ethnicity has strengths, weaknesses & rich legacies. Differences should be welcomed as opportunities for enrichment not reasons to try to change or overpower one another. (I will leave analysis of famous tyrant's inferiority complexes to others at this time, but much has been written on the topic.)
     Camps have some similarities to the army. Kids often arrive without knowing any of their bunk mates. They come from divergent towns, socioeconomic & educational backgrounds. Some kids are thin, others overweight, some are pretty, others less attractive. They all need to learn how to live together in tight quarters with new rules & a busy schedule. Learning to be tolerant & accepting of differences is part of the education that a great camp like CYJ TX gives to its campers. The entire camp program instills the value of social tolerance & respect. Each year there is a slightly different program, but campers are also taught that, "You & I can change the world." I sang those words & have lived my life changing the world by helping my clients change their worlds. I hope that my book will help open conversations between leaders from camps from all religions & ethnic backgrounds to learn from one another ways to eliminate prejudice while building pride in one's heritage. I believe that my involvement in Camp Young Judaea - TX instilled this in me. To purchase The Wake Up And Dream Challenge & donate to CYJ-TX click here:

The fourth way to eliminate prejudice is one of the most powerful ways.  This program is the oldest organization featured in my book. The origins of Elimination of Prejudice transcend many generations, however, it’s mission remains just as relevant today as in its early years. College, like the army & camp, bring varied people together in close quarters where they must learn to co-exist. It is perhaps the last time when educational institutions can help change prejudices due to ignorance in an organized fashion. In 1895, three Yale University students founded the first fraternal order open to all men without regard to race, religion or creed. In that historic moment, not only was Pi Lambda Phi International Fraternity born, but a movement dedicated to advocating a better understanding between people began. Since it’s inception, the movement has helped more than 46,000 members develop an appreciation for participating in, & building inclusive environments where people with varied perspectives, skills & experiences collaborate.
      But it wasn’t until Jules Lennard formally established “The Elimination of Prejudice” in 1996 that the movement had an official name. Lennard was a trail blazer—a staunch advocate for people dealing with discrimination. Lennard’s story began many years earlier with his Olympic dreams. After joining Pi Lambda Phi’s University of Wisconsin chapter in 1934, Lennard was selected for the 1936 US Olympic Soccer team. Lennard was excitedly on his way to the Olympic games when the United States Olympic Committee informed him they could not guarantee his safety due to his Jewish heritage. Lennard would, therefore, not be permitted to leave the ship. At that time, Germany was ruled by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party & their intentions were to showcase Aryan ideals & prowess. Lennard’s lifelong dreams of representing the United States in the Olympics were ultimately prevented by Anti-Semitism.
     Despite this set back, Lennard closely followed fellow Olympian Jesse Owens’ experience. Owens was an African-American track & field athlete representing the United States. He achieved international fame by winning four gold medals during the Berlin Olympics. In fact, Owens was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Summer Olympics, a poignant rebuke to Adolf Hitler. Lennard’s Olympic experience had a lasting impact. He returned home committed to advocating a better understanding between people & determined to confront discrimination & segregation head on.
     Today, the EOP movement is active on 40 college campuses & universities across the U.S. & Canada. To continue setting the conditions for sensitive societal conversations to take place, the 1st Annual International Elimination of Prejudice Day will be held February 8th, 2012. Students on twenty college campuses & universities across the U.S. & Canada are organizing panel discussions. Companion student organizations (religious, political, race, etc.) are being asked to co-host events. Students are encouraged to invite college faculty & staff, including the Director of Diversity Affairs, to serve as event facilitators. To learn more about Elimination of Prejudice visit their website at  To purchase my book & donate to Elimination of Prejudice go to
     What other ways have you found that help in the fight to eliminate prejudice? There are many other amazing programs that help. Please share them with me.

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