Veteran GSPM Student Campaigns Against Hate

Luke Lorenz applies his political management studies to running his nonprofit, which seeks to address prejudice and political polarization.

Coffee With Cadets
Luke Lorenz facilitates a conversation between students of the GW Forensic Science Association and cadets of the Metropolitan Police Department during a “Coffee With a Cop” event hosted by his nonprofit, Veterans Against Hate. (William Atkins/GW Today)
March 20, 2019

By Tatyana Hopkins

Luke Lorenz enjoyed a career as an international policy analyst, formulating complex and innovative, bipartisan approaches to national security and maintaining the global economic competitiveness of the country. When he gave up that job to join the United States Army in 2011, he said he gained a new perspective on international affairs—people are not as different as they seem or assume.

As a tactical control officer in a Patriot Missile Battalion, Mr. Lorenz devised, coordinated and supervised training of more than 30 soldiers and represented his unit in various NATO missions and training exercises.

“I’ve trained with everyone from the Brits, French and Poles to Saudis, Israelis and everyone in between,” Mr. Lorenz said. “You realize, hey, guess what, everyone is pretty similar.”

Now pursuing a master’s degree in political management at the Graduate School of Political Management, Mr. Lorenz hopes his studies will help him on his domestic mission to spread this idea through his nonprofit, Veterans Against Hate.

“The political management focus is really intended for running a campaign, but there are a lot of similarities between running an advocacy-oriented nonprofit and running a political campaign,” he said.

Much like a campaign manager, Mr. Lorenz oversees everything from the organization’s national operations to chapter activities. While managing fundraising efforts, planning events and taking care of administrative tasks for the nonprofit, he also is responsible for developing its communications strategy and forging corporate and civic partnerships.

“I'm getting a lot of great skills from this program for the purpose of running my nonprofit,” he said. “It really gives these applicable skills for going into the nonprofit sector, advocacy politics or running a campaign.”

Founded last year by Mr. Lorenz and other veterans he served with overseas, the organization’s mission is to create a “counterforce…against the rising tide of prejudice and political polarization in America.”

Mr. Lorenz, who completed his military service in 2014, said while serving overseas there was less division based on race, religion, sexual orientation and political affiliation than in his civilian life.

“[In the Army], we were Americans, we depended on each other, we supported each other, we respected each other,” he said. “When we came home, we were very disturbed by the level of divisions in America and by the fact that extremism and prejudice seemed to be seeping into the mainstream and seemed to becoming more ubiquitous in our discourse.”

He said if anyone should do anything to bring people closer together, it should be veterans because of the level of respect they get in American society.

“We need to utilize that to try to bridge some of the gaps,” he said.

Veterans Against Hate currently has one chapter in Arlington and is looking to expand to Houston, upstate New York and Philadelphia by the end of the year.

Its five-point agenda includes:

  • overcoming racial bias through small group forums and guided discussions
  • reducing partisan divisions with bipartisan community events
  • addressing religious discrimination through multi-faith volunteer events
  • easing tension between law enforcement and community members through personal interaction and dialogue and
  • highlighting the diversity of the nation’s military, law enforcement and first responders through events, newsletters and social media.

“We wanted to bring the sense of comradery that we had during our time in the military to others,” Mr. Lorenz said.

Veterans Against Hate organizes monthly events focused on each of the agenda’s points with various allied organizations. Last month, the organization arranged one of its “Coffee with a Cop” events between students in the George Washington University Association of Forensic Science and cadets of the Metropolitan Police Department in the Marvin Center. The event facilitates dialogue between law enforcement and members of the community over coffee and treats.

“One or two police officers can ruin a community's perspective on law enforcement,” said Anthony Green, a cadet in the program.  

The Southeast D.C. native called policing his “calling.” He long hoped to follow in his father’s footsteps and join the city’s Narcotics and Special Investigations Division, but said police constantly have to develop their connection with the community.

“You can take two steps forward in a community and one officer does one thing and sends you three steps back,” Mr. Greene said.

Second-year forensic student Christopher Sang said before studying to be “on the other side of law enforcement,” he had misconceptions about police officers.

“Now, I totally understand that you guys are just like us, regular individuals,” he said to the cadets.

Mr. Lorenz, who has also served as the president of another nonprofit that seeks to mobilize voters behind “policies rather than political parties” through policy-based campaigning since 2017, said upon graduating he hopes to use the skills he learned at GW to continue his bipartisan efforts.

 “The more we can bring people together, the more we can facilitate dialogue, the fewer of these divisions will exist,” he said.

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