Each autumn the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL’s) National Consumer Technology division gathers in New York to pay tribute to industry leaders and raise awareness and funds to combat hate.
This year’s awards event, held Saturday night at the Ziegfield Ballroom, assumed an even greater poignancy and urgency, following last month’s shootings of 11 Jewish congregants in Pittsburgh and two black shoppers in Kentucky.
In his opening remarks, industry chair and New Age Electronics president Fred Towns said it seems “a day doesn’t go by” that we’re not reminded of the hate that dwells in our communities, and how it’s moving ever closer to our front doors. But he also lauded the CE industry for its diversity, multiculturalism, and its support of the ADL, who’s 105-year-old mission remains countering anti-Semitism and securing justice and fair treatment for all through education, investigation and law-enforcement training.
The theme was carried by this year’s five honorees:
- Rick Albuck, business development VP at 2020 Companies, in receiving the S. David Feir Humanitarian Award, spoke of living in a world without bigotry, and how the continuing tide of hate has made the ADL’s mission “more critical than ever”;
- Dan Pidgeon, Starpower co-founder and industry advocate, in accepting a Torch of Liberty Award, recounted a meeting with the late Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who spoke of “the power of the tech industry to fight hate,” and urged all to give more and take less.
- Michael Petricone, government affairs senior VP for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), in accepting an American Heritage Award, said the trade group promotes talented entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and homelands, and strives to ensure that technology unites and empowers society. Paraphrasing Dr. Martin Luther King, he said the “ADL will continue bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice.”
- David Pidgeon, Starpower co-founder and CEO, in receiving a Torch of Liberty Award, noted that he comes from a family of immigrants, and that while he struggles to understand senseless acts of violence, “hope is right here” in the ballroom.
- Stephanie Dismore, HP’s VP/Americas channels general manager and recipient of the Patricia Rienzi Legacy Award, paid tribute to the trailblazer it was named for, who, as sales VP at Sanyo Fisher, was one of the tech industry’s first female executives. “It is a troubling time, but also an amazing time to be a woman in this country,” she told a packed audience of industry movers and shakers. Women haven’t arrived yet, she said; it’s still a journey, but one made easier for her by the support of the many CE business leaders who encouraged her along the way.
“So much of hate starts when people feel alone, when they feel they have no significance,” Dismore said. “We have a great responsibility to pay it forward. Our future and those who lead it depends on it.”
Also citing isolation as a root cause of extremism was Jesse Morton, a former member of the radical Islamic group Revolution Muslim. Joining a panel that included ADL research director Oren Segal and former New York Police Department intelligence director Mitchell Silber, Morton said hate groups, including white supremacists, use websites and social media to attract the disenfranchised. “They’ve formed potholes along the pathways in life and can’t trust society. …So they go online to find like-minded sympathizers,” he said.
Divisive political rhetoric carrying racist, misogynistic, anti-Semitic or anti-immigrant messages further emboldens these individuals, Morton stressed.
To combat extremism, society needs to understand the factors that lead to radicalization, the panel concurred, and to provide at-risk individuals with a sense of community and belonging.
Ending on a note of hope, Morton, who served time in a federal penitentiary for inciting terrorism, said “This time will be remembered not for the violence but for all the work good people have done to push back against hate.”