President Obama Speaks at the Righteous Among the Nations Ceremony

January 27 marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 71st anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. This evening, President Barack Obama spoke at the Righteous Among the Nations Award Ceremony at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C.

At the ceremony, which is the first of its kind in the United States, Yad Vashem posthumously recognized four individuals who heroically risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazis, forever demonstrating the importance of standing up to intolerance and hatred everywhere.

President Obama said, "...Even as the Holocaust is unique, a crime without parallel in history, the seeds of hate that gave rise to the Shoah -- the ignorance that conspires with arrogance, the indifference that betrays compassion -- those seeds have always been with us.  They have found root across cultures, and across faiths, and across generations.  The Ambassador mentioned the story of Cain and Abel.  It's deep within us.  Too often, especially in times of change, especially in times of anxiety and uncertainty, we are too willing to give into a base desire to find someone else -- someone different -- to blame for our struggles.

"Here, tonight, we must confront the reality that around the world, anti-Semitism is on the rise.  We cannot deny it.  When we see some Jews leaving major European cities -- where their families have lived for generations -- because they no longer feel safe; when Jewish centers are targeted from Mumbai to Overland Park, Kansas; when swastikas appear on college campuses -- when we see all that and more, we must not be silent. 

"An attack on any faith is an attack on all of our faiths.  It is an attack on that Golden Rule at the heart of so many faiths -- that we ought to do unto others as we would have done to us.  For Americans, in particular, we should understand that it’s an attack on our diversity, on the very idea that people of different backgrounds can live together and thrive together."

President Obama continued, "We know that we’ll never be able to wipe out hatred from every single mind.  We won't entirely erase the scourge of anti-Semitism.  But like the Righteous, we must do everything we can. All of us have a responsibility.  Certainly government has a responsibility.  As President, I’ve made sure that the United States is leading the global fight against anti-Semitism.  And it’s why, with Israel and countries around the world, we organized the first United Nations General Assembly meeting on anti-Semitism.  It’s why we’ve urged other nations to dedicate a special envoy to this threat, as we have.

"...It’s why, when voices around the world veer from criticism of a particular Israeli policy to an unjust denial of Israel’s right to exist, when Israel faces terrorism, we stand up forcefully and proudly in defense of our ally, in defense of our friend, in defense of the Jewish State of Israel.  America’s commitment to Israel’s security remains, now and forever, unshakeable.  And I've said this before -- it would be a fundamental moral failing if America broke that bond."

President Obama concluded, "...All of us have a responsibility to speak out, and to teach what’s right to our children, and to examine our own hearts.  That’s the lesson of the Righteous we honor today -- the lesson of the Holocaust itself:   Where are you?  Who are you?  That's the question that the Holocaust poses to us.  We have to consider even in moments of peril, even when we might fear for our own lives, the fact that none of us are powerless.  We always have a choice.  And today, for most of us, standing up against intolerance doesn’t require the same risks that those we honor today took.  It doesn’t require imprisonment or that we face down the barrel of a gun.  It does require us to speak out. It does require us to stand firm.  We know that evil can flourish if we stand idly by.

"And so we’re called to live in a way that shows that we’ve actually learned from our past.  And that means rejecting indifference.  It means cultivating a habit of empathy, and recognizing ourselves in one another; to make common cause with the outsider, the minority, whether that minority is Christian or Jew, whether it is Hindu or Muslim, or a nonbeliever; whether that minority is native born or immigrant; whether they’re Israeli or Palestinian. 

"It means taking a stand against bigotry in all its forms, and rejecting our darkest impulses and guarding against tribalism as the only value in our communities and in our politics.  It means heeding the lesson repeated so often in the Torah:  To welcome the stranger, for we were once strangers, too.  That’s how we never forget -- not simply by keeping the lessons of the Shoah in our memories, but by living them in our actions."
 
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Comments

Comments

Emily J.
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Alabama, USA
January 28, 2016
Actually he said, 'In face of growing anti-Semitism we're all Jews,' (Obama at Israeli embassy.) We never can seem to get away from this point in time that happened 71 years ago. It's like we are stuck in a jewish "Ground Hog Day nightmare. We have to be feed this guilty trip 24/7 so we won't focus on what the jews are doing today attacking countries all over the world and then flooding Europe and the US with their plague of brown and black sewerage. http://www.t20worldcup-2016.in/
Posted by DipNote Bloggers
January 27, 2016

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