Academy Award-winning director Steven Spielberg and Ford Motor Co. Executive Chairman Bill Ford announced Thursday they are partnering to expand a multimedia program for Detroit-area students designed to foster tolerance.
The program is an extension of the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, which was founded by Spielberg and uses visual testimonies from survivors to educate people about the Holocaust and other genocides.
The Shoah Foundation runs IWitness, an educational website that provides access to more than 1,500 full life histories and testimonies of survivors and witnesses of genocides. Ford Motor's $180,000 gift will help expand IWitness to more schools in the Detroit area.
The donation also will sponsor for the next two years USC Shoah's IWitness Video Challenge, which invites students to produce a video inspired by the survivors' testimonies that tells the story of how the students have contributed to making their communities a better place.
"My dream, through the USC Shoah Foundation, is someday to have programs like IWitness become prerequisites for graduating high school — for tolerance education to be folded into the social science study program in public high schools and private schools everywhere around this nation," Spielberg said.
About 450 teachers in Michigan already use IWitness, said Kori Street, USC Shoah Foundation's director of education.
The testimonials are "absolutely riveting, and the stories are unparalleled. And yet it's incredibly relevant to the next generation," Ford said at a news event before introducing Spielberg, who has directed dozens of movies, including "Schindler's List," the 1993 Oscar-winning Holocaust drama.
Spielberg and Ford made the announcement following a meeting with students and teachers from Henry Ford Academy in Dearborn, a Detroit suburb. Henry Ford Academy, which already uses IWitness, was named after the auto pioneer. Bill Ford is his great-grandson.
Later Thursday, Spielberg was to present Ford with the Shoah Foundation's Ambassador for Humanity Award during the organization's annual gala.
The filmmaker told reporters and students Thursday that "Schindler's List" spurred the formation of the Shoah Foundation. Ford Motor was the sole sponsor of the 1997 NBC broadcast of the film.
USC Shoah Foundation: https://sfi.usc.edu
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