CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A 15-year member of the white supremacist movement, Tom "TJ" Leyden first began to rethink his lifestyle when two of his sons were toddlers.
Leyden, of California, recalls watching a kids' show with his 1-year-old son when his 3-year-old used a racial slur to refer to one of the show's characters.
A former recruiter and organizer for the neo-Nazi movement, Leyden was at first proud that his boys were already repeating the hate speech they'd heard.
If the boys were this hateful at ages 1 and 3, he wondered what they would be like as teenagers. But still, that became a sobering thought.
"I didn't want my kids to be me," Leyden said.
Eighteen months and a lot of soul-searching later, Leyden left the white supremacy movement and became an anti-racism activist. He and his wife founded StrHATE Talk Consulting more than a decade ago. The organization aims to fight hate and bigotry with education.
Leyden, who gives between 25 and 30 speeches each year, spoke at West Virginia State University's annual Human Rights Lecture on Thursday. He's the author of "Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope," and was a speaker at former President Bill Clinton's White House Conference on Hate Crimes.
Leyden encouraged those who attended his lecture to actively oppose racism.
"Be a positive mentor," he said. "Help the world stop creating men like me."
As a recruiter for the white supremacist movement, Leyden and his friends used to spread propaganda on college campuses, he said. The goal was getting a group of students to think that other students of a different race were behind the propaganda.
They would wait in the wings for physical fights to break out between the students, and then Leyden and his friends would jump in.