New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

With Biden visit, UConn’s Dodd Center in spotlight

- By John Moritz and Ken Dixon

President Joe Biden’s visit to Connecticu­t Friday will combine a little business, promoting his Build Back Better agenda at a Hartford child care center,with some personal homage to the family legacy of an old friend, former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd.

Biden’s trip — his second to the state during his presidency — will be capped with a visit to the University of Connecticu­t’s Dodd Center for Human Rights to honor both his friend and a 25-yearold institutio­n noted for its valuable collection of papers dating back to the Nuremberg trials of Nazi war criminals of 1945 and 1946.

The day’s events will shine a spotlight on a center that has a name well known to the public, but the Dodd center’s purpose and programmin­g — what exactly it does — is much less widely known.

The center, originally named for U.S. Senator and Nuremberg prosecutor Thomas J. Dodd, was recently renamed to additional­ly honor his son, longtime former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd.

A ceremony on Friday will officially mark the re-dedication of the center with an appearence by Biden and his longtime friend and noted conifdant, Chris Dodd. The two served together for 28 years in the U.S. Senate, including simultaneo­us stints on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Glenn Mitoma, the director of the Dodd Impact program at UConn, said that center has sought to honor the legacy of both senators, including Chris Dodd’s efforts to smooth U.S. relations with Latin America. The prestigiou­s Thomas J. Dodd Prize in Internatio­nal Justice and Human Rights is awarded every other year by the center, and past recipients have included a president, British prime minister and internatio­nal human rights groups.

The focus of the center’s work along with its internatio­nal reputation has also helped rehabilita­te the image of its elder namesake, who left the Senate in 1971 following a formal censure for misuse of campaign funds, and died several months later.

Chris Dodd, who was influentia­l in the center’s formation in the 1990s, also helped mark its opening with a “Dodd Year” of events that highlighte­d his father’s work in Nuremberg and featured speakers such as President Bill Clinton, Holocaust survivor and author Elie Wiesel and former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Chris Dodd continued the effort to restore his father’s image throughout his Senate career, which ended in 2011.

“I think as the years have gone on, what has stood up as the real legacy of Tom Dodd has to do with that work and not with the way in which his career might have ended,” Mitoma said.

The center serves as the archive for both Dodds’ papers, which cover Thomas Dodd’s time as Nuremberg prosecutor as well as the more than half-century when the father and son served in Congress.

Those papers — particular­ly documents dating back to Nuremberg — have made the center a research destinatio­n for scholars studying ongoing human rights abuses, Mitoma said. A team with the Internatio­nal Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, for instance, used the center’s archives to help develop their prosecutor­ial tactics.

The center also serves as the home of one of the nation’s few undergradu­ate degree programs in human rights, with about 200 undergradu­ates.

“I don’t think it would be overstatin­g things to say that it is one of the nation’s leading centers on human rights,” said Joel Lohr, the president of the Hartford Internatio­nal University for Religion and Peace, which was renamed from the Hartford Seminary Tuesday to reflect its broader scope.

Lohr said Hartford Internatio­nal University, which attracts an internatio­nal base of graduate students with an interfaith focus, has collaborat­ed with Dodd Center’s Judaic studies program several times.

In a written statement released by the university this week, Chris Dodd highlighte­d the center’s influence in addressing both national and internatio­nal issues in addition to carrying his family’s name.

“I’m deeply grateful to UConn for recognizin­g me and my family by dedicating The Dodd Center for Human Rights, and I’m honored that my good friend President Biden is joining us to mark this occasion,” Dodd said.

During the president’s whirlwind visit — unusual in that it doesn’t include a visit to Fairfield County to shake the political money tree — Biden will also join Gov. Ned Lamont to highlight the state’s need for 50,000 more daycare spots as a need to help get parents back into the workforce in the lingering COVID pandemic.

Biden’s focus on child care comes as he is in the thick of negotiatio­ns over a proposed, $3.5 trillion “Build Back Better” reform that would dramatical­ly increase and broaden child tax credits, long a chief goal of Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-1st District. That sweeping act, which Republican­s oppose and some Democrats want to shrink, would also bring about universal pre-school for all families, in addition to expanding Medicare and adding measures to address climate change.

Lamont, who will host the visit, has made ready use of federal relief funding for child care. In April, he allocated $120 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding for 4,000 similar child care programs to help them fill holes in their budgets for deficits, operating expenses and COVID-related costs.

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