New speaker series to promote constructive engagement at Union

Publication Date

A new lecture series, the Union College Forum on Constructive Engagement, debuts with a conversation featuring a former white supremacist and a Sikh whose father was killed in a mass shooting at a temple.

Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis will discuss “The Gifts of Our Wounds: Finding Forgiveness After Hate,” on Monday, April 29, at 5 p.m. in the Nott Memorial. The talk is free and open to the public.

Pardeep Singh Kaleka and Arno Michaelis

Pardeep Singh Kaleka (left) and Arno Michaelis

A native of Punjab, India, Kaleka lost his father in the August 2012 shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis. The temple’s president and founder, Satwant Singh Kaleka, was among the six worshippers killed. The shooter was a self-proclaimed white power skinhead.

Michaelis was a founding member of one of the largest racist skinhead organizations in the world. He later renounced the movement and wrote a book, “My Life After Hate.”

Two months after the temple shooting, Kaleka reached out to Michaelis through the Against Violent Extremism Network seeking answers to why someone would commit such a despicable act.

The two eventually started an organization, Serve 2 Unite, which works with students to create inclusive and compassionate communities. They also wrote a book last year, “The Gift of Our Wounds.”

“My relationship to Arno is one of genuine brotherhood and has continually grown in a healthy testing of barriers and boundaries,” Kaleka told an interviewer last spring. “As the book goes on, some of the additional challenges will rear their head. While this book centers around the shooting of Aug. 5, 2012, I hope that readers pick up on the sense that this is really about two boys growing up in very different circumstances, but eventually growing together because of a common purpose to heal the wounds of our past.”

The Union College Forum on Constructive Engagement was established by President David R. Harris to bring in notable speakers that expose the campus community to a range of topics and perspectives.