Colorado State University will host Tom "T.J." Leyden, who spent 15 years as a white supremacist activist and recruiter, as keynote speaker for Holocaust Awareness Week.
Leyden will speak out against the culture of hatred to which he once clung during his presentation, "Turning Away from Hate," on March 2. The event will be at 7 p.m. in the Lory Student Center North Ballroom and will be followed by a question-and-answer session.
At 1 p.m. that day, the public can attend "Journey to a Hate-Free Millennium," a film examining why hate crimes exist and how they can be eliminated. Leyden, who appeared in the film, will facilitate discussion after the screening. All Holocaust Awareness Week events are free and open to the public.
While on campus, Leyden also will facilitate a workshop with the staff of Residence Life.
Leyden grew up in California in a close-knit family. His career in hate started when his parents divorced and he began to vent his anger by picking fights. His violent behavior attracted the attention of local skinheads, who offered the struggling teen a direction for his anger. By the age of 15, he started his own skinhead group. At 21, he joined the Marines and gained the leadership experience necessary to become one of the most successful activists and recruiters to date in the neo-Nazi skinhead movement.
Nothing seemed to deter the dedicated leader from his cause until his three-year-old made a racist remark about a black actor.
"One- to three-year-olds are the most pure people on Earth," Leyden said. "I looked for the purity in my son’s eyes, and I couldn’t find it. I had stolen it."
Leyden experienced a profound change of heart. Still covered by 29 tattoos of swastikas and Nazi SS officers, the leader left his hate-filled life behind and dedicated his life to fighting racism. Despite numerous death threats and several attempts on his life, he has remained committed to his cause.
"We all need to be aware of the culture of hate that exists, otherwise we are powerless to fight against the violence and insanity that they breed," Leyden said. "I figure I recruited at least 80 haters into the movement. So now it is my goal to turn at least a million students the other way."
Leyden explains that recruiters target people who are disillusioned with life because they are vulnerable, hungry for acceptance and looking for someone to blame for their problems.
Leyden warns audiences to be aware of subtle racism. "Laughter is passive acceptance," he said. "Silence means you condone the act."
Leyden’s career highlights include:
 working for more than five years for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, teaching on the culture of hate and the importance in fighting back against it;
 being invited by President Bill Clinton to be a feature speaker at the White House Conference on Hate;
 training professionals at the Pentagon, the FBI, and at American military bases;
 speaking to more than 650,000 students; and
 testifying against individuals on trail for hate crimes.
For a complete schedule of Holocaust Awareness Week activities, contact Hillel at Colorado State at (970) 491-2080 or refer to the calendar on the Hillel Web Site at http://csu.hillelcolorado.org. Events are funded by the Associated Students of Colorado State University, Hillel of Colorado, Residence Life, ASAP/CinemaCSU and the Lory Student Center Diversity grant.