Above, President Barack Obama tours the museum with Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Photos of the two lighting memorial candles are available here.
President Barack Obama recently spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC. After being introduced by Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, the President commemorated the memory of those killed during the Holocaust and unveiled new policies designed to ensure that “never again” means never again. Click here or below to watch the speech. Click here for the transcript. Excerpts, more information, and key links appear below.
Obama said during his address:
‘Never again’ is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms—including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world….
‘Never again’ is a challenge to defend the fundamental right of free people and free nations to exist in peace and security—and that includes the State of Israel. And on my visit to the old Warsaw Ghetto, a woman looked me in the eye, and she wanted to make sure America stood with Israel. She said, ‘It’s the only Jewish state we have.’ And I made her a promise in that solemn place. I said I will always be there for Israel….
And finally, ‘never again’ is a challenge to nations. It’s a bitter truth—too often, the world has failed to prevent the killing of innocents on a massive scale. And we are haunted by the atrocities that we did not stop and the lives we did not save.
Three years ago today, I joined many of you for a ceremony of remembrance at the U.S. Capitol. And I said that we had to do ‘everything we can to prevent and end atrocities.’ And so I want to report back to some of you today to let you know that as President I’ve done my utmost to back up those words with deeds. Last year, in the first-ever presidential directive on this challenge, I made it clear that ‘preventing mass atrocities and genocide is a core national security interest and a core moral responsibility of the United States of America.’...
Now we’re doing something more. We’re making sure that the United States government has the structures, the mechanisms to better prevent and respond to mass atrocities. So I created the first-ever White House position dedicated to this task. It’s why I created a new Atrocities Prevention Board, to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission. This is not an afterthought. This is not a sideline in our foreign policy. The board will convene for the first time today, at the White House. And I’m pleased that one of its first acts will be to meet with some of your organizations—citizens and activists who are partners in this work, who have been carrying this torch….
In short, we need to be doing everything we can to prevent and respond to these kinds of atrocities—because national sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people….
I’ve signed an executive order that authorizes new sanctions against the Syrian government and Iran and those that abet them for using technologies to monitor and track and target citizens for violence. These technologies should not empower—these technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them. And it’s one more step that we can take toward the day that we know will come—the end of the Assad regime that has brutalized the Syrian people—and allow the Syrian people to chart their own destiny.
Even with all the efforts I’ve described today, even with everything that hopefully we have learned, even with the incredible power of museums like this one, even with everything that we do to try to teach our children about our own responsibilities, we know that our work will never be done. There will be conflicts that are not easily resolved. There will be senseless deaths that aren’t prevented. There will be stories of pain and hardship that test our hopes and try our conscience….
But, [as Elie Wiesel] said, ‘We rejected that possibility, and we said, no, we must continue believing in a future.’ To stare into the abyss, to face the darkness and insist there is a future—to not give up, to say yes to life, to believe in the possibility of justice.
To Elie and to the survivors who are here today, thank you for not giving up. You show us the way. You show us the way. If you cannot give up, if you can believe, then we can believe. If you can continue to strive and speak, then we can speak and strive for a future where there’s a place for dignity for every human being. That has been the cause of your lives. It must be the work of our nation and of all nations.
Above, Obama and Wiesel light memorial candles.
After the speech, the White House hosted a forum that introduced the new measures and affirmed the Obama Administration’s commitment to ensuring that “never again” means never again. Videos from the event can be viewed here, here, and here.
A fact sheet about the new protocols to prevent and respond to genocidal activities is available here.
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