Bullying In America, Civil Rights in the 21st Century and the Changing Face of the Mideast Top Agenda at ADL Conference

New York, NY, April 13, 2011 … Challenging parents, school administrators and students to "break the cycle of bullying in America," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said bullying is a serious problem that can have tragic consequences, and more needs to be done to recognize and address the issue.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan Keynotes

In remarks to the Anti-Defamation League's 2011 Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Conference, held April 3-5 in Washington, D.C., Secretary Duncan discussed the impact of bullying in our nation's schools, and called bullying a "a moral and educational issue."

"Last fall, our nation witnessed the tragic impact that bullying can have on individual lives," Secretary Duncan told an audience of nearly 500 ADL leaders from across the country. "Over the course of one month, five young people took their lives after being bullied or harassed. The deaths reminded all of us that we need to stand up and speak out against intolerance in all its forms."

Secretary Duncan noted that ADL has been working for many years to combat bullying and provide anti-bias educational programs through its A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute. 

"The ADL work against bullying is particularly important to our effort to improve our nation's schools.  I want to thank you for your commitment and encourage you to redouble your efforts.  No school in the country can be a great school until it is first a safe school." 

Following Secretary Duncan's address, a panel discussion on bullying featured Kevin Jennings, Assistant Deputy Secretary of Education at the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools; Alice Cahn, Vice President of Social Responsibility at Cartoon Network; and Noopur Agarwal, Director of Public Affairs at MTV. 

ADL's National Leadership Conference was chaired by Pamela Schwartz, ADL Leadership Chair. 

Civil Rights in America – Progress on a Long Road

Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the issue of civil rights in America took center stage at the ADL conference.  Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), an icon of the Civil Rights Movement who marched alongside Dr. King, recounted the struggle for equality during the 1960s and talked about the strong support provided by the Jewish community during that time up to the present day.

"Thank you for never giving up, thank you for never giving in. Thank you for keeping your eyes on the prize, ADL," Rep. Lewis said. "In our society, in our country, there is not any room for bigotry, anti-Semitism, there is not any room for intolerance. We have a legacy to uphold." (Watch Video)

The conference also brought together noted civil rights experts and advocates to discuss such issues as anti-Muslim bigotry, hate crimes and immigration. 

Referencing a "headwind of intolerance" confronting minority communities, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice, said, "Civil rights is not about poll testing; it's about being the conscience of the federal government.  It's about transforming a headwind of intolerance into a tailwind of inclusion." 

Ambassador Akbar S. Ahmed, Professor and Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, said discrimination against Muslims and misunderstandings of Islam are real problems inAmerica.  He spoke of the value and importance of interfaith cooperation, and of the need to treat all groups with dignity and respect. 

"If history teaches us anything, it's Muslims today, and another group tomorrow," Ambassador Ahmed said.  "We must do everything we can to bring down the temperature.  We must practice tikkun olam." 

Winnie Stachelberg, Senior Vice President at the Center for American Progress, said "we still have a long way to go" in achieving true equality, but spoke of a "common humanity and interconnectedness," and expressed optimism that the quest for equal rights is moving in the right direction. 

Unrest in the Mideast – What It Means for the U.S. and Israel

With political and social unrest gripping many countries in the Middle East, the implications forIsrael and the U.S. are far-reaching. The ADL conference brought together diplomats, administration officials and foreign policy experts to offer a regional snapshot. Ambassador Dennis B. Ross, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region, National Security Council,reaffirmed the U.S. commitment toIsrael's security and discussed the Obama Administration's approach to responding to changes in the region. (Watch Video)

He also pledged that the government will continue to apply pressure on Iran, saying the regime there is "fooling no one" as they continue to pursue a nuclear weapons capability.  "Unless and untilIran complies with its obligations under the [Non-Proliferation Treaty] and all relevant UN Security Council resolutions, we will continue to ratchet up the pressure.""If anything, our relationship with Israel becomes more important during a time of change and upheaval in the Middle East," Ambassador Ross said. "Israel is an enduring partner whose stability can be counted on.  We are bound by shared values and interests, and our commitment to Israel's security is iron-clad and unshakable." 

Ambassador Michael B. Oren, Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., talked about both physical and ideological challenges facing Israel – including the firing of rockets at Israel by Hamas and Hezbollah, the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran, and the "latest campaign to destroy the state of Israel," namely boycotts, divestment and sanctions. (Watch Video)

An experts roundtable on the Middle East included Martin S. Indyk, former U.S. Ambassador to Israel;Jackson Diehl, Deputy Editorial Page Editor of The Washington Post; and Elliott Abrams, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Ron Kampeas, Washington Bureau Chief of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, moderated the discussion. 

Also addressing the situation in the Middle East were Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), House Minority Whip, and Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH), Chair, House Foreign Affairs Middle East Subcommittee.           

Workshops Delve Into Key Issues of the Day 

Conference participants explored other topical issues in a series of ADL workshops featuring experts on discrimination in America, the Iranian nuclear threat, social media's role in transmitting online hate, global anti-Semitism, and church-state separation: 

  • Strategic Threats from Iran & Its Proxies, featuring Patrick Clawson, Research Director & Director of the Iran Security Initiative, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and Barbara Slavin, Non-resident Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council.
  • Confronting Discrimination in America, featuring Chai R. Feldblum, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;Julie Fernandes, Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice; and Hilary O. Shelton, Washington Bureau Chief, NAACP. 
  • Tweeting Toward Democracy: Confronting Hate & Spurring Change, featuring Timothy Sparapani, Director of Public Policy, Facebook; and Sarah Labowitz, Foreign Affairs Officer, Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues, U.S. Department of State. 
  • Maintaining Church-State Separation: Old Flashpoints, New Battles, featuring Mazen Basrawi, Counsel, Office of the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice; TheRev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President, Interfaith Alliance; and Jill Morrison, Senior Counsel with Health and Reproductive Rights, National Women's Law Center. 
  • A Global Approach to Combating Anti-Semitism, Hate Crime & Discrimination, featuring Hannah Rosenthal, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, U.S. Department of State; and Elisa Massimino, President and Chief Executive Officer, Human Rights First.

The League leaders also tackled the issue of free speech and incivility at a session entitled, When Free Speech Turns Foul: Incivility & Political Gridlock in America, featuring Donna Brazile, Founder and Managing Director of Brazile & Associates LLC, and on-air Contributor to CNN and ABC News; and David Frum,Former Special Assistant to President George W. Bush, and Editor, Frum Forum.  Ellen Weiss, former Senior Vice President for News, NPR, moderated the discussion. (Watch Video

Treasury Dept. Honored for Fighting Terrorism 

In recognition of its efforts to impede funding for terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terrorism, the League honored the U.S. Treasury Department during an awards ceremony at the conference.

Both the Treasury Department's Office for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and Stuart A. Levey, the Former Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, received the ADL Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer Memorial Foundation Award.

Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer presented the award, named in honor of their father, and noted that the U.S. is "the only country in the world with a Treasury Department unit focused on shutting down the financing of terror." (Watch Video)

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.