Dear Friends of the Dodd Center,
President Susan Herbst, in her welcome message today to the university community, reiterated UConn’s commitment to upholding the core values of diversity, inclusion, and democracy. Earlier this month, Pres. Herbst responded to the white supremacist attacks in Charlottesville with a denunciation of the “poisonous ideas and attitudes” that fueled those attacks. We at the Dodd Center couldn’t agree more and are fully participating in the planned Vigil for Memory and Justice to be held tomorrow evening at 7:30 on the Student Union Quad. The vigil will provide a much needed moment of commemoration, reflection, and solidarity, but the work of resisting racism, hate, violence, and fascism, and defending democracy and human rights, will need to extend beyond that moment.
Thomas J. Dodd is famous for his work fighting Nazism in the courtroom at Nuremberg, but his long public career was framed by efforts to combat the noxious mix of racism, nationalism, and white supremacy at home. Prior to departing for Germany, Dodd worked as Special Assistant to the US Attorney General t to prosecute violent Ku Klux Klan members in South Carolina. In his final years in the Senate, he was principle sponsor of the 1968 Gun Control Act, which he pressed for after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The founding of the Dodd Center in 1995 was likewise a signal that the struggle against hatred and bigotry did not end with the convictions at Nuremberg and could not be won with courtroom victories alone. Speaking at our dedication, Elie Weisel called on the newly opened the Dodd Center—and by extension, the University—to take responsibility for the continued struggle against hatred. For Weisel, the incomparable witness to the Holocaust, the only remedy for hatred was education and memory. “So what do we do today to the memory of Nuremberg?” he asked, “We learn, we teach, in other words, we share. In other words still, we believe that that memory must open a channel to human rights.”
As the current Director of the Dodd Center, I take this charge seriously and promise to redouble our efforts here to resist the forces that would sow fear, division, and violence in our society. As a space, the Dodd Center will endeavor to ensure the security of all who come from threats of violence and intimidation. Through our programs and partnerships, the Dodd Center will also work to instill as sense of belonging in our community, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual identity, nationality, immigration status, or social class. In this consequential hour, the Dodd Center’s resources and efforts in the field of human rights, like those of the broader University, must be placed on the arc of history such that it bends ever so slightly more toward justice.
In solidarity and hope,
Director, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center