“Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion or political views, that place must — at that moment — become the center of the universe.”
Alex Cook ’20 referenced that famous line by Elie Wiesel when discussing his Levitt Center-sponsored research project, “Combating Deception in Genocide.” With his project, Cook has been spending his summer trying to investigate that “center” and understand how perpetrators of genocide deceive the international community into believing that genocide is either not occurring or not worth an intervention.
For his research, he has already read about patterns of deception in case studies of the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and the current persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar and the Nuer in South Sudan. Cook next plans to conduct a series of interviews with NGOs, non-profits, reporters, and government organizations to determine how they address deception. He ultimately hopes to create a report that outlines methods of genocide deception and how people can work against it.
Hometown: New York City
High School: The Dalton School
Cook’s interest in genocide prevention stems from a long-term interest in military history and deception. Additionally, those interests spurred him to take courses at Hamilton such as “Literature of Witness” with Professor of Literature and Creative Writing Doran Larson and “Holocaust Literature and Film” with Professor of Classical and Religious Studies Heidi Ravven, his project advisor. His classes helped him refine his academic pursuits, furthering his passion for humanitarian awareness and intervention.
While much of Cook’s work involves reading and synthesizing information, his interviews and research also take him abroad. For interviews, he will travel around New York City, where he lives, and then to Washington D.C. He has also traveled to Krakow, Auschwitz, and Berlin, and plans on using his experiences there to help inform his project. He said, “While nobody will ever fully comprehend the horrors of the Holocaust, standing in the crematorium in Auschwitz, next to a former ghetto wall in Krakow, or in the same place as Nazi rallies took place in Berlin, helps paint a more complete picture than simply reading about it.”
Cook is passionate about affecting change, and after he graduates from Hamilton, he intends to go to law school and continue conducting humanitarian work. With a law degree, he believes he can work for the government, in a law firm, or at a non-profit, advocating for those who are impacted by some of today’s biggest issues. Wherever he ends up, Cook knows he will do good.
“If there’s one takeaway from my project I want it to be that no problem is too far away or too big to try to solve,” he concluded.
Alex Cook is one of 200 Hamilton students who are conducting summer research or completing an internship supported by the College.