Former Neo-Nazi to Discuss Tolerance

Former Neo-Nazi to Discuss Tolerance


After 15 years as a neo-Nazi white supremacist activist and recruiter, Tom “T.J.” Leyden experienced a profound change of heart, turned away from hate and began teaching tolerance. He will share his experience on Tuesday, Oct. 5, at SUNY Cortland.

Leyden will discuss “Turning Away from Hate” at 7:30 p.m. in Old Main Brown Auditorium.                  

Presented by the College’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Committee, the talk is free and open to the public.

During his talk, Leyden will describe how a man can leave behind a life of intolerance that has defined him for so long. He will share what others can learn from his experiences that can help to combat hatred within a community.

Tom "T.J." Leyden
Tom "T.J." Leyden

A neo-Nazi skinhead by the age of 15, Leyden spent the next 15 years as a promoter, organizer and recruiter for the white supremacist movement. At one point, he had more than 29 tattoos of swastikas and other Nazi symbols covering his body. Leyden spent holidays and family vacations at white supremacist events and committed violent acts against Jews, Blacks, Latinos, homosexuals and other minority groups on a regular basis. He even hung a Nazi flag over the crib of his newborn son.

A life-changing moment turned him away from hate. Since then, he has abandoned the movement.

Now Leyden is one of the nation’s most powerful voices for tolerance. He spoke at a White House conference on hate crimes at the invitation of President Barak Obama. He served on the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Anti-hate Task Force in Los Angeles for more than five years. Leyden has been featured in Time Magazine, an episode of CBS’s “48 Hours” and several episodes of the “Gangland” series on the History Channel.

For more information, contact Vicki Wilkins, professor, Recreation, Parks and Leisure Studies Department.