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“Ground Zero 360” Special Exhibit Reminds Us All of the Heroes Who Sacrificed All to Save Others on 9-11

groundzero360Kevin O’Rourke. Moira Smith. Alan David Feinberg.

They were among the first-responders of the 9-11 terrorist attack in New York who sacrificed their lives rescuing others.

David Martin Weiss. Stephen E. Belson. Brian Grady McDonnell.

In all, 343 firefighters and paramedics of the Fire Department of New York; 37 officers of the Port Authority Police; and 23 officers of the New York Police Department perished in the line of duty.

The up close and personal stories of these first responders—and the tragic events of 9-11—are told in an incredibly intimate, emotional and inspirational new special exhibit at the Museum, “Ground Zero 360: Never Forget,” now open through Aug. 25. The New York terrorist attack killed 2,750 people at Ground Zero. First responders helped save about 14,250 people. About 17,000 people were believed inside the twin towers of the World Trade Center when the attacks began.

“You might ask how this exhibit…fits into our Mission, and it’s an easy question to answer,” Museum President and CEO Mary Pat Higgins told a group of about 75 at a special opening night reception for the exhibit, which is free with paid admission to the Museum.

“The 9-11 terrorist attack provides lessons about both the destructive force of hatred and the redemptive power of tremendous heroism, in the face of adversity. There is no better example of the ethical response to hatred than the selfless acts of the 9-11 responders, who put themselves at risk to save others,” she said.

The exhibit displays the work of Nicola McLean, a New York-based Irish photographer who captured powerful images in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Her husband, Paul McCormack, was the presiding New York Police Department Commanding Officer of the 41st Precinct at the time.

Together, over the course of 10 years, the couple created the exhibit in remembrance of the victims of the attacks and in honor of the heroic actions of the first responders who worked tirelessly in the hours, days and weeks that followed.

“Not only did they rush into the crumbling buildings to help people to safety, they worked tirelessly to uncover the remains of victims to help their loved ones find some semblance of closure,” said Ms. Higgins. “Then, in the aftermath of the destruction, they participated in the massive cleanup effort to help the city return to some sense of normalcy, not knowing their exposure to ‘the Pile’ would have long-lasting health implications.”

Walking into the exhibit, a wall of flyers greets the visitor—flyers of smiling faces of the missing with desperate messages from loved ones to contact them—that were posted throughout lower Manhattan in the hours and days following Sept. 11. For those who recall where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, the flyers immediately transport them back to the events of that day.

While the exhibit includes a small piece of I-beam—part of 200,000 tons of steal that collapsed at Ground Zero in NYC—and incredible photographs of the destruction of the attack, it is the stories of first responders that imbue the exhibit narrative with hope, heroism and resilience.

The story of NYPD Patrol Officer Moira Smith, the only female officer of NYPD to die with 22 other officers responding to the attacks, is particularly moving. Her voice is heard on police audio recordings calling for immediate backup—tough to listen to, but compelling for their meaning—which are included as part of the exhibit.

Jimmy Smith, her husband and former NYPD Officer, attended the opening event along with Ms. McClean, Mr. McCormack and Michelle and Tom Mason, both retired NYPD command staff executives who were present at Ground Zero in the aftermath of the attacks. Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Dallas Fire-Rescue Chief Louie Bright III were special guests at the opening event.

As he began his remarks, Mr. McCormack paid tribute to local Holocaust Survivors who were in attendance. “I couldn’t think of a more wonderful place to be than to be with you tonight,” he told the survivors. “You embody what you inspire here. Your mission is to keep the memory alive and to have us never forget…We share that mission with you as we will never forget those who sacrificed everything to save others” on 9-11.

Sponsors for the exhibit include the Communities Foundation of Texas and the Office of Cultural Affairs of the City of Dallas. Community Partners include the Center for American and International Law and the West End Association.

Be sure to join us at the Museum on July 23 at 6:30 p.m. for the film presentation, “9/11”. For more information visit, DallasHolocaustMuseum.org

-Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

For Classical Pianist Mona Golabek, a Mother’s Love Yields Lifelong Lessons for All Humanity

Mona Golabek

Mona Golabek

“Each piece of music tells a story,” pianist-author-storyteller Mona Golabek says, “but you have to figure out what the story is.”

And for those who attended the June 10 performance, “An Evening with Mona Golabek,” at the Wyly Theater at the AT&T Performing Arts Center, benefitting the Museum, the story she told simply was amazing.

Through classical piano pieces, projected multimedia photos and images, tastefully recorded sound and spoken narrative, Ms. Golabek told the inspirational story of her mother, Lisa Jura, and her experience as a child of the Kindertransport. The Kindertransport was a British rescue operation at the beginning of World War II that enabled 10,000 primarily Jewish children to escape the Nazis.

To say much more would be to spoil the story, which is told beautifully in Ms. Golabek’s compelling biography of her mother, The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival (with Lee Cohen, Grand Central Publishing; Reprint edition, 2003)

You can see an excerpt from Ms. Golabek’s performance here from the 2012 world premiere of The Pianist of Willesden Lane at the Geffen Playhouse, adapted and directed by Hershey Felder.

The themes reflected in Ms. Golabek’s performances are mirrored in the mission of the Museum: to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, and to teach the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred and indifference, for the benefit of all humanity.

Following World War II, Lisa Jura became a classical pianist, eventually moving to the U.S. and marrying a French soldier whom she met in Britain during the war, Ms. Golabek’s father.

Daughter followed in mother’s footsteps, becoming a classical pianist herself. Ms. Golabek’s amazing musical talent includes a Grammy nomination. Get Ms. Golabek’s book—filled with music, to be sure—but music that tells a compelling story.

Meantime, make plans to attend a must-see Special Exhibit coming to the Museum.

“Ground Zero 360: Never Forget” displays the work of Nicola McLean, a New York-based Irish photographer who captured powerful images in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Her husband, Paul McCormack, was the presiding New York Police Department Commanding Officer of the 41st Precinct at the time. Together they created the exhibit in remembrance of the victims of the attacks and in honor of the heroic actions of first responders who worked tirelessly in the hours, days, and weeks that followed.

On the exhibit’s opening day on July 2, the Museum will honor first responders from the North Texas community by hosting a First Responders Open House from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., providing free admittance with funding from Communities Foundation of Texas donors. Breakfast and lunch will also be provided. The launch day activities continue that evening with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by a lecture from McCormack.

McLean and McCormack, who met shortly before 9/11 and later married, worked together over the course of 10 years to create the exhibit. Comprised of moving visual and audio elements, the exhibit allows patrons to gain perspective and reflect on what New Yorkers experienced during this tragic time.

-Chris Kelley, for the Dallas Holocaust Museum

 

For the Chief Rabbi of Poland, the “Spark of the Jewish Soul” Reignites the Jewish Community in Country Decimated by the Holocaust

Rabbi Michael Schudrich

Rabbi Michael Schudrich

In 1939, Poland was home to a thriving Jewish community of 3.5 million people—folks who made their households and livelihoods in cities, villages and farms across the vast country.

Six years later, barely 300,000 Jews survived in Poland.

The Holocaust—and the Nazi’s Polish-based death camps—resulted in the murder of 3.2 million Jews from Poland, some 90 percent of the country’s Jewish population.

Repercussions of this crime against humanity continue today, but there is renewed hope in Poland for Jews. And Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the American-born Chief Rabbi of Poland, may well be the No. 1 reason why.

Rabbi Schudrich was the special guest of the Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series on June 4 at the Jewish Community Center of Dallas. Appointed Chief Rabbi of Poland in 2004, he has played a central role in the country’s Jewish Renaissance. Indeed, since the fall of Communism in 1989, a growing number of Poles have learned of their Jewish roots, and Rabbi Schudrich is the person they often turn to for guidance.

“We cannot change the number of Jews who were murdered in Poland,” Rabbi Schudrich told the crowd of more than 250 at the JCC. “But, we can change the number of Jews who are out there and have yet to discover their identity.”

Today, about 25,000 Jews call Poland their home. As Chief Rabbi of Poland, Rabbi Schudrich spends much of his time counseling people who have discovered—or who are trying to determine whether—they are, in fact, Jewish.

After World War II, most Jews living in Poland who survived the Holocaust left the country—many to Israel—and those who remained were forced to hide their Jewish identities under Soviet Communism.

For Jews living in Poland, “From 1939 to 1989, everything that happens tells you it’s not safe to share your Jewish identity with your children and grandchildren,” Rabbi Schudrich said. “ But in the last 26 years (since the fall of Communism), we’re seeing these children and grandchildren have their hidden secrets now revealed because it is safe—that they are, in fact, Jewish, and there is great hope and optimism.”

These revelations of newly found Jewish identity—Rabbi Schudrich called it the discovery of “the spark of the Jewish soul”—are transforming lives and, albeit slowly, Poland itself. Rabbi Schudrich was one of three Jewish leaders in Poland recently awarded prestigious Bene Merito Medals in recognition of their actions in promoting Poland abroad.

Born in New York City, Rabbi Schudrich attended Jewish day schools there and graduated from Stony Brook University in 1977 with a Religious Studies major and received an MA in History from Columbia University in 1982. He received Conservative smicha (rabbinical ordination) from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and later, an Orthodox smicha through Yeshiva University from Rabbi Moshe Tendler. He served as rabbi of the Jewish Community of Japan from 1983 to 1989 before moving to Poland in 1992.

A rising level of anti-Semitism is an issue throughout Europe, Rabbi Schudrich said, but Poland is making great strides in building strong Jewish-Catholic relationships. “I prefer to emphasize what’s working in Poland,” he said. “Good things are happening, and I am an optimist at heart.”

Be sure to join us for our next Upstander Speaker Series on October 15 when Lieutenant-General Roméo Antonius Dallaire, a Canadian humanitarian, author and retired senator and general, will be the special guest. Dallaire served as Force Commander of UNAMIR, the ill-fated United Nations peacekeeping force for Rwanda between 1993 and 1994, and attempted to stop the genocide that was being waged by Hutu extremists against Tutsis and Hutu moderates.

The Upstander Speaker Series is sponsored by Real Time Resolutions and is supported by The Dallas Morning News, G&H Ventures, LLC and Humanities Texas. This project was made possible through a grant from Humanities Texas, the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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And, don’t miss out on seeing the Museum’s Special Exhibit, “The Wartime Escape,” which chronicles Margaret and H.A. Rey’s (creators of Curious George) escape from the Nazis. The exhibit closes on June 20.

-Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide

Armenian FlowerThe Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance will join with members of the local Armenian community on April 30 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide with a viewing of the PBS documentary, The Armenian Genocide.

It is an act the Museum undertakes with care but also certainty. The tragic murder of 1.5 million Armenians was the first genocide of the 20th century. The event is known to the Armenian people in their language as Meds Yeghern, or “great calamity,” just as the Hebrew word Shoah, meaning “calamity or destruction,” is used by Jews to name the Holocaust.

As the public center for Holocaust education in North Central Texas, the Museum has been contacted many times by genocide deniers both of the Holocaust and the Armenian genocide. We have heard their voices and opinions. We answer simply that they are wrong and will continue with our mission of teaching the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred and indifference.

As Peter Balakian, Armenian American author and academic, wrote:

It is important to understand the immorality and the harmful consequences of denying genocide. As prominent scholars of genocide such as Israel Charney, Robert J. Lifton, Deborah Lipstadt, Eric Markusen and Roger Smith have noted: the denial of genocide is the final stage of genocide; it seeks to demonize the victims and rehabilitate the perpetrators; and denying genocide paves the way the way for future genocides by making it clear that genocide demands no moral accountability or response.

For more information about the Armenian genocide, please visit the website of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies.

Join us on April 30 for a viewing of The Armenian Genocide. The reception starts at 5: 30 p.m. and the film begins at 6:45 p.m. The event is free but please RSVP in advance to rsvp@DallasHolocaustMuseum.org.

Anti-Semitism Rose in 2014 in U.S. but Is Still Decreasing Over Time

audit-2014-inforgraphics

The Anti-Defamation League’s recent report on the 21 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S. in 2014 may seem alarming at first.

After all, the shootings at a Jewish Community Center by an antisemitic gunman in Kansas a year ago are still fresh in our minds, as are the recent attacks in Paris and Copenhagen.

But the increase in U.S. incidents follows nearly a decade in overall declines, according to the ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, and the total number of anti-Semitic acts in 2014 still represents one of the lowest totals of anti-Semitic acts reported by the ADL since it started keeping records in 1979.

“Anti-Semtism, of course, continues to be a problem in this country, but we as a nation do not accept these acts of hate in our communities,” said Jason Turetsky, assistant director of the Research Center at the ADL in New York. “It is safer to be a Jew today in the U.S. than in any other period in our history.”

The report counted 912 antisemitic incidents across the U.S. in 2014, up from 751 incidents in 2013.

Experts have said that much of the increase is due to the Israel and Hamas conflict last July, which stirred up anti-Israel sentiment in the U.S. Although the ADL’s report does not include anti-Israel criticism in the count, incidents are tallied when they contain anti-Jewish messages such as Nazi imagery or analogies.

Texas had 17 incidents, far fewer than New York’s 231 and California’s 184. Mr. Turetsky said that more incidents are reported in states with larger Jewish populations, and the anti-Semitic incidents in Texas are similar to those happening across the country.

audit-2014-inforgraphics2Mr. Turetsky added that people’s willingness to report incidents perpetrated against themselves or others is another positive sign that anti-Semitism is not accepted in our country.

“In the big picture, there has never been a time when anti-Semitism was less tolerated,” Mr. Turetsky said. “It doesn’t mean that we can ignore it as a thing of the past, but people know there are places they can turn if it happens.”

The report also noted an increase in number of online attacks by foreign hackers targeting the websites of synagogues and other Jewish organizations. Such attacks included a New York Jewish high school’s website that was hacked to display threatening anti-Israel messaging and university websites in California, Oregon, Utah, Missouri and Massachusetts that were redirected to pages featuring the statement, “Death to All Jews…Viva Hamas, Qassam” or other recordings and statements.

For more information on the study, visit the ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents.

— Katie Menzer, staff writer for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

For Michael Sam and America, History That Moves All of Us Forward

Michael Sam

Michael Sam

The yellow double triangle, with an appearance like that of the Star of David, and the pink triangle—Rosa Winkel in German—were part of the complex color-coded Nazi concentration camp badges. The yellow was used to identify Jews; the pink was used to identify male prisoners who were sent there because they were homosexuals.

Between 1933 and 1945, about 100,000 German men were arrested as “criminal” homosexuals and about 50,000 were convicted and sent to prison. After 1942, an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 German homosexuals were sent to concentration camps where an unknown number of them died.

Indeed, the hatred practiced by the Nazi regime—responsible for the systematic murder of six million Jews and five million others during the Holocaust—was the first thought of Michael Sam, who made history in 2014 as the first openly gay man drafted into the NFL.

Sam, who is currently appearing on ABC-TV’s Dancing With The Stars while he awaits what he hopes will be another chance to play in the NFL, spoke to a sold-out crowd of 200 at a special Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series event held at the Communities Foundation of Texas auditorium on March 26.

“The Holocaust is probably the most absolute worst crime against humanity,” began Sam, 25. “This event is nothing we should ever forget, and the work that you all do here is absolutely critical. We must remain diligent to make sure nothing like it ever happens again. Against the backdrop of your work, I’m not sure there’s anything else I can say that compares.”

Introduced by WFAA-TV Sports Director and Anchor Dale Hansen—whose “Hansen Unplugged” commentary on the prejudice Sam faced when Sam came out as a gay man generated international news coverage and a high-profile appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show last year—Sam continued:

“Ever since I came out about a year ago, people have called me a hero and courageous. For the record, I do not consider myself either. I was just simply owning my truth. My name is Michael Sam and I’m a person of passion and intensity. I am a football player, a friend, a son, a fiancée, and I am a gay man.”

“The courageous heroes are the many people, especially the youth of today, who are being bullied or harmed, both physically and psychologically, everyday because of their race, religion, or sexuality. They have the courage to go out every single day and face all that they must and pursue their dreams no matter what the obstacles.”

But, Sam said, he can relate to these youth. Growing up the seventh of eight children in Hitchcock, Texas, along the Gulf Coast, Sam faced a tough childhood filled with adversity and suffering.

“I had brothers who bullied me, and I had a family who wasn’t always there for me,” Sam said. “Football gave me everything I have today. It gave me the structure I needed in my life, it gave me my teenage years, it gave me the chance to show off my athletic ability, and most importantly it gave me the opportunity to attend the University of Missouri. My friends and teammates became my family, and football became my sanctuary.”

But he wasn’t just any football player. He was a standout player for the Mizzou Tigers. At the end of his senior season, Sam was named the Southeastern Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year and a member of the All-SEC First Team. He was also named a semifinalist for three other major college football awards.

Early projections had Sam going in the third or fourth round of the 2014 NFL draft. Then Sam came out as a gay man—something his accepting Mizzou teammates already knew and hadn’t cared about. They knew him as an exceptional performer and teammate.

But when draft-day came, it seemed as if the NFL wasn’t as accepting of Sam’s talent. He was the 249th player taken out of 256 drafted. When ESPN TV cameras captured his emotional response to being drafted by the St. Louis Rams—a lifelong dream that he celebrated by kissing his boyfriend (and now fiancée), Vito Cammisano—it didn’t go over so well with some past and current NFL players who took to social media to spew prejudice and discrimination.

Sam made his professional football debut in a preseason game on Aug. 8 against the New Orleans Saints. In four NFL preseason games with the Rams, Sams made 11 tackles and three sacks, including a game-leading six tackles in the final game. Yet, on Aug. 30, the Rams cut Sam. Within days, the Dallas Cowboys had added Sam to their practice squad. On Oct. 21, he was cut again. He is hopeful that he will play in the NFL one day soon

Sam said, “I am proud to be able to play a small part in the NFL and LGBT history by being the first openly gay man to enter into the league. But it is not what I set out to do, and I’m not done yet. I truly believe we are making the world a better place and more tolerant place. I have been welcomed into locker rooms, meeting rooms, and living rooms.”

Sam has received the ESPY’s Arthur Ashe Courage Award and the Human Rights Campaign’s Upstander Award, and he has been named a finalist for Sports Illustrated’s Sportsman of the Year.

Meantime, Sam said, his focus will remain on helping youth of today accept themselves for who they are and on teaching the moral and ethical response to hatred, prejudice and indifference for the benefit of all humanity—the mission of the Museum.

“Hatred and violence against LGBT Americans is wrong, just as hatred and violence against black Americans is wrong, just as hatred and violence against Jewish Americans is wrong,” Sam said.

“The moment we let hatred and violence go unchecked in our society, we become weaker as a people. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to push back, to stop prejudice, when we see it.”

“I am proud to stand in this room with so many people committed to this cause to do just that. Despite all the incredible strides we have made in the last century or so, recent events have proven to us that more work needs to be done. I issue all of us a clear and direct challenge: let’s answer hate with love, let’s answer darkness with light, let’s answer intolerance with understanding.”

In his introduction of Sam, Dale Hansen cited a famous quote by the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who once said, “We know the future will outlast all of us, but I believe that all of us will live on in the future we make.”

Said Hansen: “Michael Sam is making it a better future for our kids. We need more Michael Sams in America.”

Please make plans to join the Museum on June 4 for the next guest of the Upstander Speaker Series, Michael Schudrich, Chief Rabbi of Poland, who is playing a key role in the “Jewish Renaissance” of Poland.

And, be sure to visit the current special exhibit at the Museum (through June 20), “The Wartime Escape,” which recounts the WW II escape of Margret and H.A. Rey, creators of the Curious George series.

-Chris Kelley for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come Hear a Liberator and Survivor

Rosa Blum and a liberator will speak at an event at SMU commemorating the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps.

2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of most of the Nazi death camps, and it is with sadness that we must note that most of the brave soldiers who freed the remaining camp prisoners are no longer with us.

Our debt to these men will never be repaid. Not only did they save the lives of Nazi victims, but they also brought the stories of the atrocities they saw back to their homelands so that everyone could learn from the tragic ramifications of hate.

It is a rare opportunity today to hear a liberator’s story in person, which is why you shouldn’t miss Southern Methodist University’s upcoming event that commemorates the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camps. Bernhard Storch, who was imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp before becoming a death camp liberator in the Polish army, and Auschwitz survivor Rosa Blum will speak 6 p.m. at SMU’s Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Hall.

Visit the Museum’s events calendar to learn more.

And read more about WWII liberators and the Holocaust survivors they helped at the sites below:

USC Shoah Foundations’ Witnesses for Change: Stories of Liberation

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Focus on Liberation

The Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive

Dallas Holocaust Museum’s survivor speakers

— Katie Menzer, staff writer for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Upstander Michael Sam

Why Michael Sam?

It is a question that has been trending on our social media channels since the first openly gay man drafted in the NFL was named as our next Upstander Speaker Series lecturer. Sam will speak Thursday, March 26.

He is not Jewish, after all. He doesn’t appear to have any relationship to the Holocaust or other genocides. He’s not a World War II scholar.

So why him?

The answer is found simply in our mission statement – to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, and to teach the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred and indifference.

The Holocaust was one of the most blatant acts of hatred and evil our world has ever seen, but, unfortunately, acts of evil both large and small are perpetrated every day.  The Dallas Holocaust Museum has pledged to work against those hateful acts no matter where they are found.

Our mission is why we initiated the Upstander Speaker Series in 2014. The series brings leading human rights advocates and academics to North Texas to share their knowledge and research on a spectrum of issues, including modern-day genocide, ethics, prejudice and law.

Preventing a person from playing football because of his sexuality is an act of discrimination. At its root, it is no different from forcing a Jew into a boxcar to be murdered or preventing a man from using a public water fountain based on his skin color. It is wrong, and at the Museum, we teach people how to stand up against these wrongs.

We honor and appreciate Michael Sam because he stood up, even though doing so might have harmed his career as a professional football player. Although other players have come out as gay after retiring from the game, Sam is the only one who has had the courage to tell his story while still on the field.

Please show your support of Sam, the Museum and all others who fight against hate by attending the lecture at 6:30 p.m. on March 26 at the Communities Foundation of Texas, 5500 Caruth Haven Lane in Dallas.

For ticket information, please visit DallasHolocaustMuseum.org.

— Katie Menzer, staff writer for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

Dale Hansen to Speak at Upcoming Upstander Speaker Series

Dale Hansen will introduce Michael Sam at the Upstander Speaker Series event on March 26, 2015. (Photo: WFAA)

Sports anchor Dale Hansen’s agreement to introduce Michael Sam at our upcoming speaker event will give the audience a twofer they’ve probably never been offered before.

They’ll get to learn from two outstanding Upstanders – people who stand against hate and stand up for themselves and others — at one intimate event.

Michael Sam, the first openly gay football player drafted to the NFL, is the headliner of our March 26th Upstander Speaker Series event, but Hansen of WFAA-TV, Channel 8, has been making national headlines himself recently.

After Sam publicly came out as gay as an NFL draft candidate, Hansen took to the airwaves. The sportscaster delivered a two minute-plus commentary defending Sam and criticizing the hypocrisy of a sport that may turn a blind-eye to athletes’ criminal activities but acts scandalized if a player loves a member of his own sex. Hanson’s segment went viral on YouTube, and he was invited onto The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Media critics have argued that while Hansen’s message is not new, the messenger is. Some in mainstream America see Sam supporters as “others” – people not like themselves. Hansen, on the other hand, is a burly, sports-loving, heterosexual white guy – like many people’s uncles or neighbors —  and his opinion carries weight.

Hansen has even talked about overcoming his own prejudices formed during his middle America upbringing in the ‘50s and ‘60s. During one of his “Unplugged” segments on air, which focused on racist signs recently waved by Flower Mound High School students during a basketball game, Hansen discussed his father’s frequent use of racial slurs and that it took him a long time to see beyond the prejudices he learned as a child.

“Kids have to be taught to hate, and it’s our parents and grandparents and our teachers and coaches too who teach us to hate,” Hansen said during the segment. “Kids become the product of that environment. I was and they are.”

Hansen stands as an example to us all — a true Upstander who shows us that not only can we change ourselves, but we can also change the future by teaching our kids about acceptance and humanity.

Don’t miss the opportunity to hear both Sam and Hansen speak as part of the Museum’s Upstander Speaker Series. The event takes place March 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Communities Foundation of Texas, 5500 Caruth Haven Lane, Dallas.

Visit DallasHolocaustMuseum.org for ticket information.

Hear Upstander Michael Sam Speak March 26

Missouri vs Arkansas State - September 28, 2013 (Photo by Ben Walton)Whether you follow people who tear across the football field or tear up the dance floor, no doubt Michael Sam has been on your social media feed lately. Now you have a chance to hear what the multi-talented football player is up to in person.

Sam, the first openly gay man to be drafted into the NFL, will speak on March 26 as part of the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance’s 2015 Upstander Speaker Series. The series brings leading human rights advocates and academics to Dallas to share their knowledge and research on a spectrum of issues, including modern-day genocide, ethics, prejudice and law.

Sam set the Internet spinning when he announced recently that he’ll be a contestant on Season 20 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. He’s stressed, though, that he’ll continue training so he can show off his moves on the football field if a team comes calling for the 2015 NFL season.

Sam has a lot going on, but he’ll stand still long enough on March 26 to speak to the North Texas community about his past whirlwind year and his decision to come out despite repercussions it may have on his career in the uber-macho world of professional sports.

Sam’s a natural for the Dallas Holocaust Museum’s second Upstander Speaker Series, which raises fundamental questions about humanity, justice and personal responsibility. It challenges audiences to consider these issues and stand up against injustice rather than stand by.

Upstander Speakers Series (2)Sam grew up in Hitchcock, Tex. along the Gulf Coast. He is the seventh of eight children. Three of his siblings have died and two brothers are in prison. He is the first of his family to graduate from college.

Sam, now 25, was selected by the St. Louis Rams in last year’s draft but was released before the start of the season. He was signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad but did not make it to the game-day roster.

The nation has followed Sam’s progress in the NFL closely.

“The President congratulates Michael Sam, the Rams and the NFL for taking an important step forward today in our Nation’s journey,” President Barack Obama said in a White House statement. “From the playing field to the corporate boardroom, LGBT Americans prove everyday that you should be judged by what you do and not who you are.”

Sam has been accepted to the first NFL veteran combine, a project aimed at giving a second chance to players who are free agents. That combine is set for March 22.

The Upstander Speaker Series with Michael Sam and introduction by WFAA-TV sports anchor Dale Hansen will take place March 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Communities Foundation of Texas, 5500 Caruth Haven Lane in Dallas. For more information and tickets, visit DallasHolocaustMuseum.org.

— Katie Menzer, staff writer for the Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance

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