Southern Poverty Law Center
The recipient of the 2001 Albert Schweitzer Award of Excellence is the Southern Poverty Law Center. The award was presented on September 10, 2001, at the opening convocation of Chapman University. Dr. Marvin Meyer, director of the Albert Schweitzer Institute, introduced the event by reflecting upon the Schweitzer bust on the campus of Chapman University and the humanitarian commitments of the Southern Poverty Law Center: “Our campus is a campus of busts, and our largest and most impressive bust is that of Albert Schweitzer in front of Argyros Forum.” The saying of Schweitzer underneath his likeness is this: ‘Search and see whether there is not some place where you may invest your humanity.’ The recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Award of Excellence for 2001 exemplifies what it means to “invest one’s humanity in the lives of others.”
The Southern Poverty Law Center was founded by Morris Dees and Joseph Levin, with Julian Bond as its first president, and the members of the Center have worked with courage and conviction to oppose racism, hatred, intolerance, and discrimination through law courts and classrooms. Through the dissemination of information and successful battles in the courts the Center has taken on the Ku Klux Klan, white supremacy organizations, and other hate groups, and the judgments against hate groups have put the hate groups out of business and have benefited the victims themselves. The mother of a lynching victim bought her first house with money from a Southern Poverty Law Center suit against the Klan, and an Ethiopian student whose father was murdered paid for his college education with money from a judgment against the White Aryan Resistance. Such justice-real justice-has not been well received by hate groups. The Center’s offices were burned and members have received death threats. Nonetheless, the work of the Center continues unabated. It has now established a Civil Rights Memorial at the site of the Center in Montgomery, Alabama.
Jim Carnes, director of the Center’s Teaching Tolerance Project and editor of the magazine Teaching Tolerance, was present to receive the award. The Teaching Tolerance Project is dedicated to promoting tolerance and advocating diversity through education. The magazine Teaching Tolerance is sent to more than 700,000 teachers, its curriculum kits are used in more than 80,000 schools, and its videos have been nominated for and have received academy awards as documentaries. Later that day Jim Carnes spoke on “Teaching Tolerance” to an audience of students, faculty, and guests in Argyros Forum.
Meyer offered the following tribute to Jim Carnes and the Southern Poverty Law Center: “We are delighted to present to you the Schweitzer Award of Excellence for the Southern Poverty Law Center. You and the Center have set a high standard for the practice of law and education in the service of justice and respect for all. You have shown us how to invest our humanity in the service of others, and for this we honor you today.”