By CATHY GEIGLE
Oscar award winner and civil rights lawyer, Morris Dees, spoke to an audience of more than 700 people at Westminster College as he gave a public lecture urging the people of Utah to end racial hatred.
“As we enter this new century, this new millennium, we find our nation deeply divided,” Dees said. “Whose America is this?”
“Our nation is great because of our diversity, not in spite of it,” Dees said.
In an effort to end racial hatred, Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center, has been fighting hate crimes which efforts have left him with repeated death threats and burnt offices according to Keppler Associates, Inc., Dees representatives.
Yet Dees keeps on fighting.
In the 1980s Dees won a series of civil rights suits which bankrupted the Ku Klux Klan, according to the KAI.
Dees latest success was a $37.8 million suit against the Ku Klux Klan for burning down a church in South Carolina, the largest amount of damages ever won for a civil award.
His latest goal is to teach students about tolerance and to inspire the youth of today, Dees said.
To teach tolerance to students, the Southern Poverty Law Center offers a free curriculum package to every school in the state.
Dean James Seidelman of the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business at Westminster said, “Relative to the changing demographics of the United States, it is becoming even more important to raise the awareness in people’s consciousness about the pervasiveness of hate.”
“Morris Dees is going out trying to educate people,” Seidelman said.
The program has videos, books, and lesson plans, Dees said.
One of the videos in the “Teaching Tolerance” program won an Oscar and two others were nominated for Oscars, Dees said.
Although Dees believes strongly in these programs, without one main ingredient he said they will not succeed.
“All these programs will come to naught unless we truly learn to love one another,” Dees said.
“I was absolutely delighted by the message and the turnout. There were over 700 people there. We packed the place. It was a fabulous turnout,” Seidelman said.