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First lady leads war on hatred

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WASHINGTON, Oct. 11 (JTA) — In the wake of last month’s terrorist attacks against the United States, the fight against hate is taking on added urgency.

First lady Laura Bush publicly joined that campaign this week, when she, along with the Anti-Defamation League and the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain, launched the second annual “Close the Book on Hate” national campaign.

Through free educational events, the campaign teaches adults methods to reduce or prevent prejudice and encourages children to respect others and take a more active role against hate. An increased number of schools and communities have been dealing with the issues of hate and bigotry since the Sept. 11 attacks in New York and Washington.

At a Barnes & Noble store in downtown Washington on Thursday, the first lady read to a group of schoolchildren and led a discussion on treating people fairly and the importance of reading.

After reading aloud from the book “Amazing Grace,” which tells the story of a young black girl who learns she can do whatever she wants if she tries hard enough, Bush told the children how important it is to read and be educated in order to stay informed.

If you read and learn about religion, for example, then you can be more tolerant, she told the group.

The children told Bush and Caryl Stern-LaRosa, chief operating officer of the ADL, that they felt mad and sad when other children call them names. Stern-LaRosa told the children that bigger acts of violence start with words.

ADL National Director Abraham Foxman drew a direct link between fighting prejudice and the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

“They didn’t begin with a boxcutter,” he said. “It began with words, ugly hateful words.”

“There’s only one way to fight hate — you fight it with education, you fight it with love and with words of love,” Foxman said.

“I’m a product of hate,” Foxman told the children, referring to his experiences during the Holocaust. “I survived hate.”

After the event, Foxman hugged Bush and told her that his prayers are with her husband, President Bush, as he attempts to wipe out terrorism.

ADL anticipates a heightened interest in the anti-hate campaign this year.

A free brochure called “Close the Book on Hate: 101 Ways to Combat Prejudice,” will be available at all Barnes & Noble stores throughout the country. A series of free events will take place at stores between Oct. 15 and Nov. 15.

A key resource for the program is the ADL’s book “Hate Hurts: How Children Learn and Unlearn Prejudice.”

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