A veteran from America’s civil rights movement helped kick-off the University of Northern Iowa’s academic year. Morris Dees founded the Southern Poverty Law Center and to this day his work attracts the attention of enemies.He cites a big court judgement against the Aryan Nation in Idaho, and he says the K-K-K burned his headquarters in 1980, though Dees didn’t expect any trouble in Iowa. U-N-I officials won’t give details but confirm security was more intense than the school usually provides speakers. Dees was a driving force behind the Civil Rights Memorial, put up in 1989 in Montgomery, Alabama, in honor of 40 men, women and children who died during the civil rights movement. He says its message was heard, though there are still groups of people today who feel threatened.Dees says gays, lesbians, the elderly, the handicapped and, different racial or religious groups still feel threatened, but he says you can do a lot to make people more accepting. He said communications could breach the barriers that separate people.The theme of Dees’ speech at U-N-I’s convocation was “Responding to Hate: Voices of Hope and Tolerance.” This is only the second convocation held at U-N-I after a 30-year hiatus.
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