tv Politics and Public Policy Today CSPAN February 1, 2016 9:00am-9:23am EST
ever. and in his commitment to seek a humanitarian response to the syrian refugee crisis and every time he stands up for people who have been attacked because of their identity and denounces antisemitism, islamophobia, racism and hatred in every form, he demonstrates that never again means we cannot be bystanders when people are stigmatized, oppressed, excluded or attacked because of their identity. the president makes sure that
phrase, "never again," is not a hollow declaration by giving it a powerful voice in his everyday life. so it means a great deal to have the president of the united states take part in dbd#irst righteous among the nations ceremony to be held on u.s. soil at the embassy of israel and it's my distinct privilege to introduce my good friend and president of the united states, barack obama. [ applause ] >> thank you. thank you. good evening. if a person destroys one life, it is as if they have destroyed an entire world.
and if a person saves one life, it is as if they have saved an entire world. what an extraordinary honor to be with you as we honor four righteous individuals whose courage is measured in the lives they saved. one child. one refugee. one comrade at a time. and who in so doing, helped save our world. i deliver a lot of speeches. very rarely am i so humbled by the eloquence that has preceded me.
not just in words, but in the acts that we commemorate today. to my dear friend stephen spielberg, thanks for your moving and generous words. you spoke of the importance of finding your voice and using it for good, and i know that your work, whether a masterpiece like schindler's list or the stories that you have so persistently preserved through the shoah foundation is deeply personal. steven once said the story of the shoah is the story that he was born to tell, rooted in those childhood memories that he just gave you a taste of, the relatives lost, the stories you heard from your family and stephen, the whole world is grateful that you found your voice and for the good that you've done with that voice. it will endure for generations and so on behalf of all of us, we are grateful. to ambassador and mrs. dermer, to nina totenberg, our friends
from the israeli embassy, thank you so much for hosting us today. let me just add tonight that our thoughts are also with former israeli president, shimon peres. i had the opportunity to speak with shimon earlier this week. i thanked him for his friendship which has always meant so much to me personally and i thanked him once again for the shining example of his leadership with his extraordinary life as a founding father of the state of israel, a statesman who has never given up on peace, embodiment of the great alliance between our two nations. shimon inspires us all and this evening we speak for all of us, israelis, americans, peep around the world in wishing him a full and speedy recovery. i also want to just note the presence of two of our outstanding senators from the
great state of tennessee. i know that it's rare where you have such an extraordinary native of the state being honored in this way but i think it's also worth noting that this represents the bipartisan and steadfast support of members of congress for the security and prosperity of the state of israel, and they act on that every single day. the survivors, families of the righteous and those they saved to all the distinguished guests, we gather to honor the newest of the righteous among the nations. and make real the call to never forget. not just on this day of remembrance, but for all days and for all time. in moments like this, as i listen to the extraordinary stories of the four that we
honored, memories come rushing back of the times that i have encountered the history and the horror of the shoah. growing up hearing the stories of my great uncle who helped liberate part of buchenwald, and who returned home so shaken by the suffering that he had seen, that my grandmother would tell me he did not speak to anyone for six months. just went up in his attic, couldn't fully absorb the horror that he had witnessed. then having the opportunity to go to buchenwald myself with my dear friend elle and seeing the ovens, the little camp where he was held as a boy. standing with survivors in the old warsaw ghetto and then the extraordinary honor of walking
through with the rabbi and seeing the faces and hearing the voices of the lost, a blessed memory. then taking my own daughters to visit the holocaust museum, because our children must know this chapter of our history and that we must never repeat it. the four lives we honor tonight to make a claim on our conscience as well as our moral imagination. we hear their stories and we are forced to ask ourselves under the same circumstances, how would we act? how would we answer god's question, where are you? would we show the love of valerie and marila zbievski.
not bad, right? there in warsaw, they could have been shot for opening their home to a 5-year-old girl. they cared for her like one of their own. gave her safety and shelter and moments of warmth of family and music, a shield from the madness outside until her mother could return. would we have the extraordinary compassion of lois gunden? she wrote that she simply hoped to add just another ray of love to the lives of these youngsters who had already endured so much and by housing and feeding as many jewish children as she could, her ray of love always shown through and still burns within the families of those she saved. would we have the courage of
master sergeant roddie edmonds. i know your dad said he was just doing his job, but he went above and beyond the call of duty and so did all those who joined in that line. faced with a choice of giving up his fellow soldiers or saving his own life, roddie looked evil in the eye and dared a nazi to shoot. his moral compass never wavered. he was true to his faith and he saved some 200 jewish american soldiers as a consequence. it's an instructive lesson, by the way, for those of us christians. i cannot imagine a greater expression of christianity to say i too am a jew.
i ask these questions because 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 in to a
base desire to find someone else, someone different, to blame for our struggles. so 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 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. which is why your father was right. we are all jews. because antisemitism is a distillation, an expression of an evil that runs through so much of human history, and if we do not answer that, we do not answer any other form of evil. when any jew anywhere is targeted just for being jewish, we all have to respond as roddie edmonds did.
we are all jews. we know that we will never be able to wipe out hatred from every single mind. we won't entirely erase the scourge of antisemitism. but like the righteous, we must do everything we can. all of us have a responsibility. certainly government has a responsibility. as president, i have 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 have urged other nations to dedicate a special envoy to this threat as we have. it's why when a statue of an anti-semitic leader from world war ii was planned in hungary, we led the charge to convince their government to reverse course, this was not a side-note to our relations with hungary,
this was central to maintaining a good relationship with the united states and we let them know. 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 have said this before, it would be a fundamental moral failing if america broke that bond. all nations that prize diversity and tolerance and pluralism must speak out whenever and wherever jews and other religious minorities are attacked. in recent years we have seen
leaders in france, germany and great britain stand strongly against antisemitism. in israel, president rivlin has spoken about tolerance and acceptance among all israelis, jewish and arab. meanwhile, governments have an obligation to care for the survivors of the shoah because no one who endured that horror should have to scrape by in their golden years. so with our white house initiative, we are working to improve care for holocaust survivors in need here in the united states, and with the compensation fund we helped create, claims are finally being paid that even more jews deported from france during the holocaust, including survivors here in america, can benefit from. but the task before us does not fall on government alone. every faith community has a responsibility, just as all
religions speak out against those who try to twist their faith to justify terrorism and violence, just as all faiths need to speak out when interpretations of their religion veer in an ugly direction, so too must they speak out against those who use their faith to justify bias against jews or people of any faith. we know that there were muslims from albanians to arabs who protected jews from nazis. in morocco, leaders from muslim majority countries around the world just held a summit on protecting religious minorities including jews and christians. his holiness, pope francis, has spoken forcefully against antisemitism saying every human anti-semitism, saying every human being as a creature of god is our brother, regardless of his origins or religious beliefs. these are the voices we must heed and anyone who claims to be
a religious leader must project that vision. that truth. and finally, 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. so we're called to live in a way that shows that we have 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 non-believer. whether that minority is native-born or immigrant. whether they are 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. as the book of deuteronomy teaches us, justice, justice, you shall pursue. i want to close with what i'm told is a jewish legend. it's said that within every
generation, there are 36 virtuous individuals, individuals so honorable, so filled with compassion that their good works sustain the very existence of the world. they are called la med bannics, and without them, society crumbles, according to the legend. we don't know who they are. they are entirely indistinguishable ordinary people like valerie and marila and lois and roddie. you wouldn't necessarily recognize them in a crowd. but i believe that their generation, the generation of schindler and wallenberg and carsky demanded a lot more than 36.
they called for more than 26,000 righteous among the nations. it called for the millions of heroes who did not go quietly and who stood up and fought back. may we all strive to live up to their noble example. to do our part to sustain each other and embrace the humanity we share and in so doing, save our world. may the memory of the lost be a blessing and as nations and individuals, may we always strive to be among the righteous. god bless you, god bless the united states of america and god bless the state of israel. [ applause ]
>> ladies and gentlemen, please stay in your places for a few minutes. the c-span bus is in iowa ahead of monday's caucuses to spread the word about c-span. c-span, all hands on deck as we prepare for our coverage of the iowa caucuses. democratic presidential candidate martin o'malley stopped by and met simpson college students who tweeted this, simpson college students and professor hang out in the c-span bus while martin o'malley is interviewed. republican presidential candidate mike huckabee visited the