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Former neo-Nazi to speak at URI

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Reformed skinhead to talk about the culture and nature of hate

KINGSTON, R.I. -- February 5, 2004.-- After 15 years as a neo-Nazi activist, Tom "TJ" Leyden experienced a profound change of heart, turned away from hate, and began teaching tolerance.

The man who covered his body in Nazi symbols, advocated for the death of Jews, and recruited teenagers into the hate movement is now one of the nation’s most compelling advocates for diversity and cultural appreciation. He will share his extraordinary story at the University of Rhode Island on Friday, Feb. 20 at 8 p.m. His talk, free and open to the public, will be given in Edwards Auditorium, URI Kingston Campus. His visit is sponsored by the newly-formed URI Tolerance Committee in cooperation with the office of the vice president for student affairs.

"One day, I heard my son use the word ‘nigger’ and saw him give the Nazi salute," Leyden is quoted as saying. "He was only three and I knew he wasn’t going to grow up and find the cure for cancer or serve on the Supreme Court. He was going to be a mindless bum beating people for kicks."

Leyden’s turn from hate led him to the Simon Wiesenthal Center where he worked as an anti-hate activist and educator.

Leyden’s talk will be frank. He will discuss the brutality with which he used to beat people just because of their race and how he and his friends robbed and harassed homosexuals and Latinos for sport.

"…I figure I recruited at least 80 haters into the movement. So now my goal is to turn at least a million students the other way," he has said.