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Ryan JohnsonAfter writing a psychology class paper about the photos and stories of Tennessee’s Holocaust survivors from the “Living On” website, student Ryan Johnson decided to take the project a step further. Johnson was so moved by the assignment, he shared his paper with the Tennessee Holocaust Commission. When the commission’s executive director, Danielle Kahane-Kaminsky, read it, she asked Johnson to present it at the Annual Day of Remembrance, held in April in Nashville.

At the ceremony, which included remarks from Governor Bill Haslam and other state dignitaries, Johnson read his paper—and his words moved some of the survivors to tears. Johnson’s paper, entitled “A Simple Thanks Inspired by ‘Living On,'” also was printed in the booklet of prayers, readings, and reflections given out at the ceremony. Johnson said being allowed to share his thoughts with the Holocaust survivors was his way of saying thanks. “Even sixty to seventy years later, I can still find meaning in their struggles and they are still making a difference and an impact on me,” he said. Johnson, of Knoxville, is a junior in psychology.