New York, NY, December 2, 2011 … Under the self-proclaimed mantra, "If we can affect each other, we can and will affect the world," a group of diverse teenagers from New York City are primed to make a positive difference in their communities after a four-day mission to our nation's capital where they explored issues of prejudice and discrimination.
They were among 106 student delegates to the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) 14th annual Grosfeld Family National Youth Leadership Mission to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Students from across the country explored modern and historic examples of bigotry and genocide, and shared personal experiences with hatred and discrimination. The program strives to motivate students to become positive ambassadors for change in their schools and communities.
"For the rest of your life, you will not be the same. Whatever you are, wherever you are, whatever your background, your decision to say 'Yes' to this mission will change your lives," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director in addressing the group.
Mr. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, shared with the students his story of being saved from the Nazis by his Polish Catholic nanny, and reiterated the underlying message of the program.
"For me, the lesson of the Holocaust is not the ugliness but the beauty. The fact that good people stood up to say 'No.' Look how many victims have fallen to cyberbullying – it shows the power of words. Each one of you has the power to make a difference in your world."
Selected for their leadership qualities and demonstrated interest in issues of diversity, the students hailed from Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington, D.C and Palm Beach County, Florida.
The centerpiece of the mission is time spent at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, where students learned about the persecution and atrocities of the Second World War, and examined contemporary issues of extremism, bigotry and genocide.
"Every day, we can always make a difference, it doesn't need to be a Holocaust," concentration camp survivor Nesse Godin told the group.
Other presenters included Dr. Leon Bass, a retired high school principal and U.S. army veteran who helped liberate the Buchenwald concentration camp; Maria Reyes of the Freedom Writers Institute; David Waren, ADL's Director of Education; and Michael Lieberman, ADL Washington Counsel/Director of the Civil Rights Policy Planning Center.
During breakout sessions conducted by ADL's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute facilitators, students shared personal experiences with bullying, hatred and discrimination, and discussed how the lessons of the Holocaust can be applied today and to their own lives.
The delegates attended the 17th Annual ADL In Concert Against Hate at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, featuring the National Symphony Orchestra, where they heard stories about heroes that stood up against or were the victims of hate crimes.
Founded in 1996 by ADL's Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest Regional Office, the Youth Leadership Mission became a national program in 1998, building on the success of previous programs in preparing students as role models against bigotry, prejudice and hate. It is generously sponsored by The Grosfeld Family Foundation.