Full Text Obama Presidency September 23, 2014: President Barack Obama Wishes The American Jewish Community a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Wishing You a Sweet, Happy, and Healthy New Year

Shanah Tovah from the White House! On Wednesday evening, Jews in the United States and around the world will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.

The High Holidays offer the Jewish community a moment of pause, a time to reflect on the previous year and recommit to the unending task of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. Together, working with people of all faiths, we can bring greater peace and prosperity to the world in 5775.

In his 2014 video message for the High Holidays, President Obama extends his wishes for a sweet new year and discusses why this time of year is so significant.

Watch on YouTube

Read the remarks:

Hello. As Jews across America, Israel, and the world gather together for the High Holidays, Michelle and I extend our warmest wishes to you and your families for a sweet and happy new year.

My good friend Elie Wiesel once said that God gave human beings a secret, and that secret was not how to begin but how to begin again. These days of awe are a chance to celebrate that gift, to give thanks for the secret, the miracle of renewal.

In synagogues and homes over the coming days, Jews will reflect on a year that carried its shares of challenges. We’ve been reminded many times that our world still needs repair. So here at home we continue the hard work of rebuilding our economy and restoring our American dream of opportunity for all. Around the world, we continue to stand for the dignity of every human being, and against the scourge of anti-Semitism, and we reaffirm the friendships and bonds that keep us strong, including our unshakeable alliance with the State of Israel.

So let’s approach this new year with new confidence and new hope. Let’s recommit ourselves to living out the values we share as individuals and as a country. Above all, let’s embrace this God-given miracle of renewal, this extraordinary opportunity to begin again in pursuit of justice, prosperity, and peace. From my family to yours, shanah tovah.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech at White House Easter Prayer Breakfast

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Easter Prayer Breakfast

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

East Room

9:27 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you, thank you, thank you very much.  Please, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.  Well, good morning, everybody.

Welcome to the White House and welcome to our annual Easter prayer breakfast.  As always, we are blessed to be joined by so many good friends from around the country.  We’ve got distinguished guests.  We’ve got faith leaders, members of my administration who are here.  And I will once again resist the temptation to preach to preachers.  (Laughter.)  It never works out well.  I am reminded of the admonition from the Book of Romans — “Do not claim to be wiser than you are.”  (Laughter.)  So this morning, I want to offer some very brief reflections as we start this Easter season.

But as I was preparing my remarks, something intervened yesterday.  And so I want to just devote a few words about yesterday’s tragedy in Kansas.  This morning our prayers are with the people of Overland Park.  And we’re still learning the details, but this much we know.  A gunman opened fire at two Jewish facilities — a community center and a retirement home.  Innocent people were killed.  Their families were devastated.  And this violence has struck the heart of the Jewish community in Kansas City.

Two of the victims — a grandfather and his teenage [grand] son — attended the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, which is led by our friend Reverend Adam Hamilton.  Some of you may know that during my inauguration, Reverend Hamilton delivered the sermon at the prayer service at the National Cathedral.  And I was grateful for his presence and his words.  He joined us at our breakfast last year.  And at the Easter service for Palm Sunday last night, he had to break this terrible news to his congregation.

That this occurred now — as Jews were preparing to celebrate Passover, as Christians were observing Palm Sunday –makes this tragedy all the more painful.  And today, as Passover begins, we’re seeing a number of synagogues and Jewish community centers take added security precautions.  Nobody should have to worry about their security when gathering with their fellow believers.  No one should ever have to fear for their safety when they go to pray.

And as a government, we’re going to provide whatever assistance is needed to support the investigation.  As Americans, we not only need to open our hearts to the families of the victims, we’ve got to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  And we have to keep coming together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism that can lead to hatred and to violence, because we’re all children of God.  We’re all made in His image, all worthy of his love and dignity.  And we see what happens around the world when this kind of religious-based or tinged violence can rear its ugly head.  It’s got no place in our society.

So this Easter Week, of course we recognize that there’s a lot of pain and a lot of sin and a lot of tragedy in this world, but we’re also overwhelmed by the grace of an awesome God.  We’re reminded how He loves us, so deeply, that He gave his only begotten Son so that we might live through Him.  And in these Holy Days, we recall all that Jesus endured for us — the scorn of the crowds and the pain of the crucifixion, in our Christian religious tradition we celebrate the glory of the Resurrection — all so that we might be forgiven of our sins and granted everlasting life.

And more than 2,000 years later, it inspires us still.  We are drawn to His timeless teachings, challenged to be worthy of His sacrifice, to emulate as best we can His eternal example to love one another just as He loves us.  And of course, we’re always reminded each and every day that we fall short of that example.  And none of us are free from sin, but we look to His life and strive, knowing that “if we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us.”

I’ll tell you, I felt this spirit when I had the great honor of meeting His Holiness, Pope Francis, recently.  I think it’s fair to say that those of us of the Christian faith, regardless of our denomination, have been touched and moved by Pope Francis.  Now, some of it is his words — his message of justice and inclusion, especially for the poor and the outcast.  He implores us to see the inherent dignity in each human being.  But it’s also his deeds, simple yet profound — hugging the homeless man, and washing the feet of somebody who normally ordinary folks would just pass by on the street.  He reminds us that all of us, no matter what our station, have an obligation to live righteously, and that we all have an obligation to live humbly.  Because that’s, in fact, the example that we profess to follow.

So I had a wonderful conversation with Pope Francis, mostly about the imperatives of addressing poverty and inequality.  And I invited him to come to the United States, and I sincerely hope he will.  When we exchanged gifts he gave me a copy of his inspiring writings, “The Joy of the Gospel.”  And there is a passage that speaks to us today:  “Christ’s resurrection,” he writes, “is not an event of the past; it contains a vital power which has permeated this world.”  And he adds, “Jesus did not rise in vain.  May we never remain on the sidelines of this march of living hope!”

So this morning, my main message is just to say thank you to all of you, because you don’t remain on the sidelines.  I want to thank you for your ministries, for your good works, for the marching you do for justice and dignity and inclusion, for the ministries that all of you attend to and have helped organize throughout your communities each and every day to feed the hungry and house the homeless and educate children who so desperately need an education.  You have made a difference in so many different ways, not only here in the United States but overseas as well.  And that includes a cause close to my heart, My Brother’s Keeper, an initiative that we recently launched to make sure that more boys and young men of color can overcome the odds and achieve their dreams.

And we’re joined by several faith leaders who are doing outstanding work in this area mentoring and helping young men in tough neighborhoods.  We’re also joined by some of these young men who are working hard and trying to be good students and good sons and good citizens.  And I want to say to each of those young men here, we’re proud of you, and we expect a lot of you.  And we’re going to make sure that we’re there for you so that you then in turn will be there for the next generation of young men.

And I mention all this because of all of our many partners for My Brother’s Keeper, it’s clergy like you and your congregations that can play a special role to be that spiritual and ethical foundation, that rock that so many young men need in their lives.

So I want to thank all of you who are already involved.  I invite those who are not to get more information, see if you can join in this effort as brothers and sisters in Christ who “never tire of doing good.”

In closing, I’ll just recall that old prayer that I think more than one preacher has invoked at the pulpit:  “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I’ve said enough.”  (Laughter.)  The Almighty is nudging me.  I thank you for joining us this morning of prayer.  I wish you all a blessed Holy Week and Easter, and I’d like to invite my friend Joel Hunter to deliver the opening prayer.  Come on up, Joel.  (Applause.)

END
9:39 A.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency April 14, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Passover

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement from the President on Passover

Source: WH, 4-14-14 

Michelle and I send our warmest greetings to all those celebrating Passover in the United States, in Israel, and around the world.

On Tuesday, just as we have every year of my presidency, my family will join the millions taking part in the ancient tradition of the Seder.  We will enjoy the company of friends and loved ones, retell a timeless story, and give thanks for the freedom we are so blessed to enjoy.

Yet even as we celebrate, our prayers will be with the people of Overland Park, Kansas and the family and friends of the three innocent people who were killed when a gunman, just one day before Passover, opened fire at a Jewish community center and retirement home on Sunday.  As Americans, we will continue to stand united against this kind of terrible violence, which has no place in our society.  We will continue to come together across faiths to combat the ignorance and intolerance, including anti-Semitism, that can lead to hatred and violence.  And we will never lose faith that compassion and justice will ultimately triumph over hate and fear.

For that is one of the great lessons of the Exodus.  The tale of the Hebrew slaves and their flight from Egypt carries the hope and promise that the Jewish people have held in their hearts for thousands of years, and it is has inspired countless generations in their own struggles for freedom around the globe.

In America, the Passover story has always had special meaning.  We come from different places and diverse backgrounds, but we are bound together by a journey from bondage to liberty enshrined in our founding documents and continued in each generation.  As we were so painfully reminded on Sunday, our world is still in need of repair, but the story of the Exodus teaches us that with patience, determination, and abundant faith, a brighter future is possible.

Chag Sameach.

Political Musings December 7, 2013: On eighth day of Hanukkah Obama hosts two holiday receptions

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

On eighth day of Hanukkah Obama hosts two holiday receptions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

With all the Christmas receptions the White House will host throughout December, at least two were dedicated to the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. On Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013 President Barack Obama along with First Lady Michelle Obama hosted two Hanukkah…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Evening Hanukkah reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by The President at evening Hanukkah reception, 12/5/2013

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

Grand Foyer

8:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody. (Applause.)  Welcome to the White House and Happy Hanukkah.  I should say that normally we just have one Hanukkah reception, but this year we’re hosting two.  We have so many friends to celebrate with we had to do it twice.  I welcomed a whole other group this afternoon.  But I want you — don’t tell them, this is actually my favorite group right here.  (Laughter.)  It’s our own little Hanukkah miracle — the party was supposed to last for one hour and it’s lasted for eight.  (Laughter.)

I want to welcome so many friends and leaders from throughout the Jewish community.  We are honored to be joined by one-third of our Supreme Court:  Justice Ginsberg — (applause) — Justice Kagan, who is here somewhere — (applause) — there she is.  And Justice Breyer is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got some outstanding members of Congress, members of my administration with us, including our new Director of Jewish Outreach, Matt Nosanchuk.  (Applause.)  Where’s Matt?  Matt is out here somewhere.

I also want to welcome representatives from the State of Israel who are joining us.  As some of you recall, I had just an extraordinary, magical visit to Israel earlier this year and was proud to reaffirm the alliance between our two great democracies.  (Applause.)  I also had the opportunity to go to an expo where I saw the best of Israeli technology.  And there’s been such a burst of innovation and creativity that’s taking place — including, by the way, I saw a robot that served me matzah.  (Laughter.)  We were thinking about having that robot here to serve latkes, but we couldn’t get him — (laughter) — so maybe next year.

Obviously, on a note of seriousness, tonight our thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family in South Africa.  They’re grieving the loss of a man, a moral giant who embodied the dignity and the courage and the hope, and sought to bring about justice not only in South Africa, but I think to inspire millions of people around the world.  And he did that, the idea that every single human being ought to be free and that oppression can end and justice can prevail.  (Applause.)

That’s what –

JUSTICE:  Yes.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That was a Supreme Court Justice who said “yes.”  (Laughter.)  That’s what Nelson Mandela taught us, and it’s that same spirit that brings us here tonight.

And over the last eight days, Jews around the world have gathered with friends and family to light the menorah and retell the story that has been kept alive for more than 2,000 years.  And it’s a story of miracles, of a light that burned for eight days when it should have only lasted for one and a people who surmounted overwhelming odds to reclaim their historic homeland, so they could live their lives in peace and practice their religion in peace.

It’s a story that has been repeated countless times throughout Jewish history.  And as we light the candles tonight, we’re reminded that we’re still writing new chapters in that story today.  In 1922, Abraham and Hayyah Ettinger donated this menorah to their congregation in a small town that’s now the Czech Republic.  And tragically, the Ettingers — and their prayer hall — were lost in the Holocaust.

Yet even in the face of tragedy, Jewish communities around the world kept alive a light that would not be extinguished — the hope that freedom would triumph over tyranny.  And tonight, we’re honored that the menorah that once belonged to the Ettingers will be lit by two Holocaust survivors from the former Czechoslovakia — Margit Meissner and Martin Weiss.  (Applause.)  The triumph they represent and the triumph this menorah represents, the progress that it represents, the notion that we can join together here tonight reminds us that we can never take our blessings for granted and that we always need to keep working for peace and the freedom that we seek.

And that’s why we continue to stand up for our values around the world.  That’s why we stand alongside and partner with those allies who share those values, including the State of Israel.  Together with our Israeli friends, we’re determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  And we’re testing whether it’s possible through diplomacy to achieve that goal, understanding that we have to remain vigilant.

For the first time in a decade, we’ve halted the progress of Iran’s nuclear program.  And key parts of the program — (applause) — key parts of the program will be rolled back, even though the toughest of our sanctions remain in place.  And that’s good for the world and that’s good for Israel.  Over the coming months, we’re going to continue our diplomacy with the goal of achieving a comprehensive solution that deals with the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons once and for all.  And through it all, as always, our commitment to Israel and its security will remain iron clad and unshakeable.  (Applause.)

Building a future of security and peace is not easy.  But the story of Hanukkah, of survivors like Margit and Martin — leaders like Nelson Mandela — remind us that those who came before us overcame even greater obstacles than those that we face.  So let’s take strength from their struggles and from their sacrifice.  Let’s give thanks for miracles large and small.  Let’s recommit ourselves to building a future that shines with hope and freedom and peace.  I want to thank all of you for the contributions you’ve made to communities across the country and the many friends who have been so supportive to Michelle and myself during these years.

And with that, I want to welcome Rabbi Joshua Sherwin, a lieutenant in the United States Navy, to say a blessing.  (Applause.)

RABBI SHERWIN:  Thank you, Mr. President.  As Hanukkah formally ends this evening, it is appropriate for us to gather to remind ourselves and the world the true meaning of this holiday.  In that spirit, at this wonderful gathering, we now kindle the menorah and recite two blessings as we kindle these lights — the she-asa nissim, thanking God for the miraculous capability to bring light to the darkest corners of the world and for the leaders who are dedicated to strengthening religious freedom in our days just as the Maccabees did in ancient ones.

The second bracha — we’ll all join together in the shehecheyanu, the simple yet powerful prayer of thanks giving for the blessing of life, for the gift of light and for the privilege of celebrating this Hanukkah together.  I invite you to join me.

(Prayer is sung.)

THE PRESIDENT:  They came in a little late, but that’s okay.  (Laughter.)  There is only one last piece of business that I need to do.  This was prepared for us.  Some of you may be aware that Thanksgiving and the first day of Hanukkah converge only every 70,000 years.  (Laughter.)  So presumably, this is the first and the last time that this may be used.  (Laughter.)  This was prepared for us.  This is called a Menurkey.  (Laughter.)

And I just wanted to make sure that those of you who were not familiar with the Menurkey — (laughter) — that we had our own here in the White House.  (Laughter.)  Enjoy the reception, everybody.  Thank you so much.  God bless you.  God bless America.  (Applause.)

END
8:15 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-5-13 

Grand Foyer

4:21 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  Welcome to the White House.  Now, normally we just have one Hanukkah reception, but this year we are hosting two because we have so many friends to celebrate with we had to do it twice.  And I’ll be welcoming a whole other group this evening.  Don’t tell them, though, but you’re my favorite group.  (Laughter.)  It is our own little Hanukkah miracle.  The party that was supposed to last only one hour will go on for eight.  (Laughter.)  You got that one?  (Laughter.)

Now, this is the fifth time I’ve celebrated Hanukkah as President.  But this is my first Thanikkah — did I say that right?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thanksgivukkah.

THE PRESIDENT:  This intersection of two wonderful holidays has inspired a whole lot of people across America; we are delighted to welcome a few of them here tonight.

We’ve got 10-year old Asher Weintraub from New York City — where’s Asher?  (Applause.)  Asher came up with what we believe is the world’s first-ever menorah shaped like a turkey.  It is called the Menurkey.  (Laughter.)  Where is the Menurkey?  I had it just a second ago.

MRS. OBAMA:  You just had it.  Where is the Menurkey?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got to bring the Menurkey out here.  I’ll continue speaking.  You’ve got to see this.  Thank you, Asher, for your spirit and your creativity.

We’ve got Dana Gitell — where’s Dana — (applause) — who actually coined the term “Thanksgivukkah” — her sister Deborah — oh, here’s the Menurkey.  (Applause.)

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Team Thanksgivukkah is here!

THE PRESIDENT:  There we go.  (Laughter.)  So I’m going to keep this in a special place.  (Laughter.)

So Dana, along with her sister Deborah, expects this term to catch on around the country.  Where are they?

MS. GITELL:  Right here.

THE PRESIDENT:  There they are.  Let’s see them.  Hey, guys.  How are you?  They’ve had a lot of fun with their project.  But there is a serious side to it because they’ve said they always express their gratitude to America, a place where no matter who you are, you can always celebrate your faith.  And that same spirit is reflected in the menorah that we’re about to light.

It was designed by Manfred Anson, who was born in Germany in 1922.  And as a child he lived through the horrors of Kristallnacht, and later lost a brother to the Holocaust.  But Manfred escaped.  And like the Maccabees at the center of the Hanukkah story, he fought against tyranny, serving in the Australian army during World War II.  And like the Maccabees, after the war was over he sought a place where he could live his life and practice his religion free from fear.  So for Manfred and millions like him, that place was ultimately America.

And Manfred passed away last year, but during his life he designed this special menorah, with a model of the Statue of Liberty at the base of each candle — I don’t know if you’ve noticed that.  In a few moments, all nine lady liberties will be shining, a reminder that our country endures as a beacon of hope and of freedom wherever you come from, whatever your faith.

And that beacon stays bright because of families like the one that will join me in lighting the menorah this evening –- the Schmitters.  Now, dad, Jake, could not be here because he’s deployed in Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  But we are joined by his wonderful wife Drew, his daughters Lainey and Kylie — go ahead and wave, guys.  (Laughter.)  So Drew, Lainey, Kylie, I want you to know how proud we are of not only your dad, but also of you.  And we’re so grateful for the sacrifices that you make on behalf of our country every single day.

And tonight, we give thanks to all the men and women in uniform and for their families.  They make tremendous sacrifices on our behalf, on behalf of our freedom and our security — not only of us, but our allies and friends around the world, including our friends in the State of Israel.  And the commitment and the courage of our men and women in uniform and their families is itself a miracle for which we give thanks.

As the Festival of Lights draws to a close, let’s take one last chance to think about all the miracles we’ve been lucky enough to experience in our own lives.  There are small miracles, like the invention of the Menurkey.  (Laughter.)  And then there are big miracles like the chance to be a part of this great country.

The first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving won’t overlap again for more than 70,000 years.  So it’s safe to say that this was a once-in-a-lifetime event — (laughter) — unless there’s a really — a scientific breakthrough that we don’t know about.  (Laughter.)  But while we never may see again another Thanksgivukkah, I know that if we can show the same resilience as Manfred Anson and the same resourcefulness as young Asher, as well as Dana and Deborah, and the same strength as military families like the Schmitters, we will be blessed with many more miracles for years to come.

So thank you, everybody.  Happy Hanukkah.  And now I want to welcome Rabbi Amanda Lurer, a lieutenant in our Navy, to say a blessing.  (Applause.)

MS. LURER:  Hanukkah formally ends tonight as the sun goes down this evening.  But it will always be appropriate for us as we gather to remind ourselves and the world of the meaning of this holiday.  So in that spirit, in this wonderful gathering, we now kindle the menorah and recite two blessings.  And as we kindle the lights, we’ll say — the first one is the she-asa nissim blessing, thanking God for the miraculous capability to bring light to the darkest corners of the world, and for leaders who are dedicated to strengthening religious freedoms in our days as in the day of the Maccabees.

The second blessing is shehecheyanu, that simple yet powerful prayer of thanksgiving, for the blessing of life, the gift of light and the privilege to celebrate Hanukkah together.  Please join me.

(Prayer is sung.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you all again for being here.  We hope you have a wonderful celebration.  And we can’t stay to party because I got to go back to work.  (Laughter.)  But I do want to make sure that we get a chance to shake hands with all of you briefly as we go by.  And again, we just want to thank the Schmitters, and make sure to tell dad we’re proud of him, too.

MS. SCHMITTER:  Okay.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Enjoy, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
4:31 P.M. EST

Political Musings September 3, 2013: President Barack Obama speaks to 1000 Rabbis in Rosh Hashanah conference call

POLITICAL MUSINGS

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=500&h=80?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama speaks to 1000 Rabbis in Rosh Hashanah conference call

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama spoke to 1000 rabbis in a conference call on Friday afternoon Aug. 30, 2013 from the White House. The President phoned to give his Rosh Hashanah, New Year greeting to the Rabbis and in general the American….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency April 8, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Statement on Yom Hashoah / Holocaust Remembrance Day

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement from the President on Yom Hashoah

Source: WH, 4-8-13

I join people here in the United States, in Israel, and around the world in observing Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Today, we honor the memories of the six million Jewish victims and millions of others who perished in the darkness of the Shoah.  As we reflect on the beautiful lives lost, and their great potential that would never be fulfilled, we also pay tribute to all those who resisted the Nazis’ heinous acts and all those who survived.

On my recent trip to Israel, I had the opportunity to visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust memorial, and reaffirm our collective responsibility to confront anti-Semitism, prejudice, and intolerance across the world.  On this Yom Hashoah, we must accept the full responsibility of remembrance, as nations and as individuals—not simply to pledge “never again,” but to commit ourselves to the understanding, empathy and compassion that is the foundation of peace and human dignity.

Political Headlines March 26, 2013: President Barack Obama hosts White House Seder dinner on first night of Passover

POLITICAL HEADLINES

http://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/pol_headlines.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama hosts White House Seder dinner on first night of Passover

The first family planned to use a Seder plate given to First Lady Michelle Obama from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s wife, Sara.

Source: AP, 3-26-13

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama held a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Monday for family, staff and friends.

Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama held a Passover Seder dinner in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House on Monday for family, staff and friends.

President Barack Obama marked Monday night’s start of Passover with a private Seder at the White House.

Obama started the tradition as a presidential candidate in 2008 when he joined Jewish staffers celebrating on the campaign trail. He’s continued it every year since with a small group of aides and friends. He told Israelis during a visit last week he wanted the tradition at the White House so his daughters could experience it.

SEDER27N_2_WEB

Pete Souza/The White House

President Obama began hosting an annual Seder dinner for his Jewish staff when he was on the campaign trail in 2008….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 25, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Passover Message

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Statement from the President on Passover

Source: WH, 3-25-13

As we prepare for our fifth Seder in the White House, Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Passover here in America, in the State of Israel, and around the world.

Tonight, Jewish families will gather with family and friends to celebrate with songs, wine, and food. They will read from the Haggadah, and retell the story that makes this holiday so powerful.

Last week, I visited the state of Israel for the third time, my first as President. I reaffirmed our countries’ unbreakable bonds with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I had the chance to speak directly with young Israelis about the future they wanted for their country, their region, and the world. And I saw once again how the dream of true freedom found its full expression in those words of hope from Hatikvah, lihyot ‘am chofshi be’artzeinu, “To be a free people in our land.”

Passover is a celebration of the freedom our ancestors dreamed of, fought for, and ultimately won. But even as we give thanks, we are called to look to the future. We are reminded that responsibility does not end when we reach the promised land, it only begins. As my family and I prepare to once again take part in this ancient and powerful tradition, I am hopeful that we can draw upon the best in ourselves to find the promise in the days that lie ahead, meet the challenges that will come, and continuing the hard work of repairing the world. Chag sameach.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama host a Passover Seder Dinner for family, staff and friends, in the Old Family Dining Room of the White House, March 25, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Full Text Obama Presidency December 13, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the White House Hanukkah Reception

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Hanukkah at the White House: A Menorah that Survived Sandy

Source: WH, 12-14-12

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rabbi Larry Bazer at the 2012 Hanukkah reception, Dec. 13, 2012President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and Rabbi Larry Bazer participate in the Menorah lighting during the Hanukkah reception in the Grand Foyer of the White House, Dec. 13, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday welcomed friends and leaders from the Jewish community to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah. In his remarks, the President remembered the enduring story of resilience and optimism that is the essence of this holiday:

Over 2,000 years ago, a tyrant forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion and his forces desecrated the Holy Temple.  So Judah Maccabee gathered a small band of believers to fight this oppression, and against all odds, they prevailed.  And the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and restored the faith of its people.  And when they went to reclaim the Temple, the people of Jerusalem received another gift from God — the oil that should have lasted only one night burned for eight.  That miraculous flame brought hope and it sustained the faithful.

To this day, Jews around the world honor the Maccabees’ everlasting hope that light will overcome the darkness, that goodness will overcome evil, and that faith can accomplish miracles.The celebration this year was a tribute to more recent examples of resilience and optimism as well. The 90-year-old menorah used in the ceremony came from the Temple Israel synagogue in Long Beach, New York, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy. It served as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction.

This was not the first year that Rabbi Larry Bazer, the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard, was asked to light the candles at the White House Hanukkah celebration. Last year, Rabbi Bazer was unable to attend because he was four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, and he spent every night of Hanukkah with a different group of soldiers. As President Obama noted, “he had a pretty good excuse” for turning down that invitation.

Remarks by the President at a Hanukkah Reception

East Room

7:50 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Good evening, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Good evening.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you for coming to the White House tonight to celebrate the sixth night of Hanukkah.  (Applause.)  It is truly an honor to host so many leaders from the Jewish community this evening.  Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren is here.  (Applause.)  And obviously I know I speak for all of us when we say that America’s support for our friend and ally Israel remains unshakeable during these difficult times.  (Applause.)

Many members of Congress and local government are here, and we want to welcome you.  We are graced by two Supreme Court Justices, several members of my Cabinet and administration — so, everybody, be on your best behavior.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the incredibly talented members of the West Point Jewish Chapel Cadet Choir for their service.  (Applause.)  They are incredible young people.  Obviously we’re in awe of their service to our nation, and for sharing a couple of Hanukkah favorites with the Marine band.

And finally, I’d like to recognize the rabbis and lay leaders who traveled from all over the country to be here.  Thank you for sharing the holiday with us.  We’re grateful.  (Applause.)

So tonight, as we gather to light the sixth candle of Hanukkah, we remember an enduring story of resilience and optimism.  Over 2,000 years ago, a tyrant forbade the Israelites from practicing their religion and his forces desecrated the Holy Temple.  So Judah Maccabee gathered a small band of believers to fight this oppression, and against all odds, they prevailed.  And the Maccabees liberated Jerusalem and restored the faith of its people.  And when they went to reclaim the Temple, the people of Jerusalem received another gift from God — the oil that should have lasted only one night burned for eight.  That miraculous flame brought hope and it sustained the faithful.

To this day, Jews around the world honor the Maccabees’ everlasting hope that light will overcome the darkness, that goodness will overcome evil, and that faith can accomplish miracles.

The menorah that we’re using tonight and the man who will light it are both powerful symbols of that spirit.  Six weeks ago, the Temple Israel Synagogue in Long Beach, New York, was badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy.  But this 90-year-old menorah survived, and I am willing to bet it will survive another 90 years, and another 90 years after that.  So tonight, it shines as a symbol of perseverance, and as a reminder of those who are still recovering from Sandy’s destruction — a reminder of resilience and hope and the fact that we will be there for them as they recover.

So I want to thank Rabbi David Bauman for sharing your congregation’s blessed menorah with us.  We pray that its light will carry victims of Sandy and all Americans to a brighter tomorrow.  And we’re confident that it will.  (Applause.)

And we’re confident that it will because for centuries the menorah has served as a source of inspiration and courage for all those dreaming of a better future, and Rabbi Larry Bazer knows that as well as anybody.

Now, we had hoped that Rabbi would join us to light the candles last year, but he wasn’t able to make it.  We don’t get that very often.  Usually when we invite people, they come.   (Laughter.)   But we gave him another chance because he had a pretty good excuse the first time.

Last Hanukkah, Rabbi Bazer — and he happens to be the Joint Forces Chaplain for the Massachusetts National Guard — was four months into his deployment in Afghanistan, and he lit a custom-built electric menorah in the central square of Camp Phoenix in Kabul.  As the only rabbi in Afghanistan at the time, he spent every night of Hanukkah with a different group of soldiers, reminding them of the Maccabees’ perseverance, and bringing them faith to guide their challenging work.

Even in the face of great danger, the message of Hanukkah endures.  And it continues to inspire those all over the world who stand for freedom and opportunity, and we could not be more grateful to Rabbi Bazer for his extraordinary service to our country as well as his service to his congregation.  (Applause.)

The Rabbi stands here alongside this menorah both as a symbol of hope and perseverance and determination and duty.  And it also reminds us that there are sacrifices that are involved in defending our values.  Obviously we’re grateful to the men and women who serve our nation so nobly and so bravely all around the world.  (Applause.)   And our thoughts and prayers in this holiday season especially go out to those who are away from home during the holiday season.

But obviously the lessons of Hanukkah also apply to those of us who should be serving in different ways in our own communities, in our work places, in our own families as citizens of this nation; that we have obligations to one another, that we’re stronger together than we are apart, that we have to think about future generations and not just the present.

Those are all values that we have to also make sacrifices to defend.  And so I want to welcome all of you.  I’m honored to be with you.  I see a lot of good friends around the room.  But at this time I’d like to invite Rabbi Bazer to join me to light the White House menorah.

(The blessing is offered and the menorah is lighted.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Have a wonderful evening, everybody.  We’re going to go around and try and shake some hands.

END
7:57 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency December 7, 2012: President Barack Obama’s 2012 Hanukkah Statement & Message

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Statement by the President on Hanukkah

Source: WH, 12-17-12

Michelle and I send our warmest wishes to all those celebrating Hanukkah around the world.

This Hanukkah season we remember the powerful story of the Maccabees who rose up to liberate their people from oppression. Upon discovering the desecration of their Temple, the believers found only enough oil to light the lamp for one night. And yet it lasted for eight.

Hanukkah is a time to celebrate the faith and customs of the Jewish people, but it is also an opportunity for people of all faiths to recognize the common aspirations we share. This holiday season, let us give thanks for the blessings we enjoy, and remain mindful of those who are suffering. And let us reaffirm our commitment to building a better, more complete world for all.

From our family to the Jewish Community around the world, Chag Sameach.

Full Text Obama Presidency September 14, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Rosh Hoshanah Greeting

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

President Obama’s Rosh Hoshanah Greeting

Source: WH, 9-13-12

As we look forward to the beginning of the Jewish High Holidays Sunday night, I want to extend my warmest wishes to all those celebrating the New Year.

This is a joyful time for millions of people around the world. But Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are also opportunities for reflection. They represent a chance to take stock of our lives and look forward to the coming year with clear eyes and renewed purpose.

In that spirit, the Jewish Tradition teaches us that one of the most important duties we have during this period is the act of reconciliation. We’re called to seek each other out and make amends for those moments when we may not have lived up to our values as well as we should.

At a time when our public discourse can too often seem harsh; when society too often focuses on what divides us instead of what unites us; I hope that Americans of all faiths can take this opportunity to reach out to those who are less fortunate; to be tolerant of our neighbors; and to recognize ourselves in one another. And as a nation, let us be mindful of those who are suffering, and renew the unbreakable bond we share with our friends and allies – including the State of Israel.

In that spirit, Michelle and I wish you and your families a sweet year full of health, happiness, and peace. L’Shana Tovah.

Full Text Obama Presidency April 23, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum Honoring the Pledge of ‘never again’ & Saying ‘I’ll be there for Israel’ — Issues New Tech Sanctions on Syria, Iran

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Barack Obama Delivers Remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Obama at Holocaust museum: ‘I’ll be there for Israel’

Source: JTA, 4-23-12

President Obama in an address at a Holocaust remembrance event said he would “always be there for Israel” and defended his administration’s record on preventing atrocities.

Obama spoke Monday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, a few days after Holocaust Remembrance Day. Prior to his address, he took a tour of the museum guided by Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust memoirist and Nobel Peace laureate.

He recounted meeting with a woman at Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial, when he was a presidential candidate in 2008, who told him that the Jews only had one state.

“I said I would always be there for Israel,” Obama said, and he cited the steps he has taken to isolate Iran because of its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Obama also recounted steps taken by his administration through military and diplomatic action to prevent atrocities in Sudan, Libya, Uganda and Ivory Coast.

The president has come under pressure in recent months for not doing more to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose crackdown on opponents has killed thousands. Obama pledged to keep working with allies to bring about “the end of the Assad regime.”

Elsewhere in his address, however, he said that his commitment to preventing atrocities “does not mean we intervene militarily every time there is an injustice in the world.”

Obama levies new tech sanctions on Syria, Iran:

Source: AP, 4-23-12

Under pressure to stop the Syrian government’s deadly crackdown, President Barack Obama on Monday levied new sanctions on people and entities in Syria and Iran that use technology to target their citizens and perpetrate human rights abuses.
Obama’s announcement underscored the degree to which technology, from cellphones to social media, has fueled popular uprisings in countries throughout the Arab world and at the same time has given autocratic regimes new ways to track dissidents and suppress political dissent.

“These technologies should be in place to empower citizens, not to repress them,” said Obama, as he announced the sanctions during a solemn speech at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington.

Surrounded by the haunting memories of the Holocaust, Obama spoke broadly about the international community’s obligation to prevent the “madness” of mass killings. And he issued a sharp warning to governments that launch violent crackdowns on civilians.

“National sovereignty is never a license to slaughter your people,” he said….READ MORE

 

President Obama Speaks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Musuem

Source: WH, 4-23-12

Today, President Obama spoke at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum about honoring the pledge of “never again” by making sure we are doing everything we can to prevent and end atrocities and save lives.

After being introduced by Professor Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor, the President spoke of the importance of telling our children—and all future generations—about that dark and evil time in human history when six million innocent men, women, and children were murdered just because they were Jewish.

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

President Obama has 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.” Last year he issued a Presidential Directive to make sure that the U.S.  has the neccesary structures and mechanisms in place to prevent and respond to mass atrocities. He also established an Atrocities Prevention Board to bring together senior officials from across our government to focus on this critical mission.  And there’s more work to be done:

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we’ll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We’re going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, “alert channels” will ensure that information about unfolding crises — and dissenting opinions — quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared — because this is a global responsibility.

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.

President Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel Light Candles
President Barack Obama and Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel light candles in the Hall of Remembrance during a tour of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., April 23, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Washington, D.C.

10:00 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everyone.  It is a great honor to be with you here today.  Of course, it is a truly humbling moment to be introduced by Elie Wiesel.  Along with Sara Bloomfield, the outstanding director here, we just spent some time among the exhibits, and this is now the second visit I’ve had here.  My daughters have come here.  It is a searing occasion whenever you visit.  And as we walked, I was taken back to the visit that Elie mentioned, the time that we traveled together to Buchenwald.

And I recall how he showed me the barbed-wire fences and the guard towers.  And we walked the rows where the barracks once stood, where so many left this Earth — including Elie’s father, Shlomo.  We stopped at an old photo — men and boys lying in their wooden bunks, barely more than skeletons.  And if you look closely, you can see a 16-year old boy, looking right at the camera, right into your eyes.  You can see Elie.

And at the end of our visit that day, Elie spoke of his father.  “I thought one day I will come back and speak to him,” he said, “of times in which memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.”  Elie, you’ve devoted your life to upholding that sacred duty.  You’ve challenged us all — as individuals, and as nations — to do the same, with the power of your example, the eloquence of your words, as you did again just now.  And so to you and Marion, we are extraordinarily grateful.

To Sara, to Tom Bernstein, to Josh Bolten, members of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, and everyone who sustains this living memorial — thank you for welcoming us here today.  To the members of Congress, members of the diplomatic corps, including Ambassador Michael Oren of Israel, we are glad to be with you.

And most of all, we are honored to be in the presence of men and women whose lives are a testament to the endurance and the strength of the human spirit — the inspiring survivors.  It is a privilege to be with you, on a very personal level.  As I’ve told some of you before, I grew up hearing stories about my great uncle — a soldier in the 89th Infantry Division who was stunned and shaken by what he saw when he helped to liberate Ordruf, part of Buchenwald.   And I’ll never forget what I saw at Buchenwald, where so many perished with the words of Sh’ma Yis’ra’eil on their lips.

I’ve stood with survivors, in the old Warsaw ghettos, where a monument honors heroes who said we will not go quietly; we will stand up, we will fight back.  And I’ve walked those sacred grounds at Yad Vashem, with its lesson for all nations — the Shoah cannot be denied.

During my visit to Yad Vashem I was given a gift, inscribed with those words from the Book of Joel:  “Has the like of this happened in your days or in the days of your fathers?  Tell your children about it, and let your children tell theirs, and their children the next generation.”  That’s why we’re here.  Not simply to remember, but to speak.

I say this as a President, and I say it as a father.  We must tell our children about a crime unique in human history.  The one and only Holocaust — six million innocent people — men, women, children, babies — sent to their deaths just for being different, just for being Jewish.  We tell them, our children, about the millions of Poles and Catholics and Roma and gay people and so many others who also must never be forgotten.  Let us tell our children not only how they died, but also how they lived — as fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters who loved and hoped and dreamed, just like us.

We must tell our children about how this evil was allowed to happen — because so many people succumbed to their darkest instincts, and because so many others stood silent.  Let us also tell our children about the Righteous Among the Nations.  Among them was Jan Karski, a young Polish Catholic, who witnessed Jews being put on cattle cars, who saw the killings, and who told the truth, all the way to President Roosevelt himself.

Jan Karski passed away more than a decade ago.  But today, I’m proud to announce that this spring I will honor him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

We must tell our children.  But more than that, we must teach them.  Because remembrance without resolve is a hollow gesture.  Awareness without action changes nothing.  In this sense, “never again” is a challenge to us all — to pause and to look within.

For the Holocaust may have reached its barbaric climax at Treblinka and Auschwitz and Belzec, but it started in the hearts of ordinary men and women.  And we have seen it again — madness that can sweep through peoples, sweep through nations, embed itself.  The killings in Cambodia, the killings in Rwanda, the killings in Bosnia, the killings in Darfur — they shock our conscience, but they are the awful extreme of a spectrum of ignorance and intolerance that we see every day; the bigotry that says another person is less than my equal, less than human.  These are the seeds of hate that we cannot let take root in our heart.

“Never again” is a challenge to reject hatred in all of its forms — including anti-Semitism, which has no place in a civilized world.  And today, just steps from where he gave his life protecting this place, we honor the memory of Officer Stephen Tyrone Johns, whose family joins us today.

“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.

So when efforts are made to equate Zionism to racism, we reject them.  When international fora single out Israel with unfair resolutions, we vote against them.  When attempts are made to delegitimize the state of Israel, we oppose them.  When faced with a regime that threatens global security and denies the Holocaust and threatens to destroy Israel, the United States will do everything in our power to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

“Never again” is a challenge to societies.  We’re joined today by communities who’ve made it your mission to prevent mass atrocities in our time.  This museum’s Committee of Conscience, NGOs, faith groups, college students, you’ve harnessed the tools of the digital age — online maps and satellites and a video and social media campaign seen by millions.  You understand that change comes from the bottom up, from the grassroots.  You understand — to quote the task force convened by this museum — “preventing genocide is an achievable goal.”  It is an achievable goal.  It is one that does not start from the top; it starts from the bottom up.

It’s remarkable — as we walked through this exhibit, Elie and I were talking as we looked at the unhappy record of the State Department and so many officials here in the United States during those years.  And he asked, “What would you do?”  But what you all understand is you don’t just count on officials, you don’t just count on governments.  You count on people — and mobilizing their consciences.

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.”

That does not mean that we intervene militarily every time there’s an injustice in the world.  We cannot and should not.  It does mean we possess many tools — diplomatic and political, and economic and financial, and intelligence and law enforcement and our moral suasion — and using these tools over the past three years, I believe — I know — that we have saved countless lives.

When the referendum in South Sudan was in doubt, it threatened to reignite a conflict that had killed millions.  But with determined diplomacy, including by some people in this room, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation.  And our diplomacy continues, because in Darfur, in Abyei, in Southern Kordofan and the Blue Nile, the killing of innocents must come to an end.  The Presidents of Sudan and South Sudan must have the courage to negotiate — because the people of Sudan and South Sudan deserve peace.  That is work that we have done, and it has saved lives.

When the incumbent in Côte D’Ivoire lost an election but refused to give it up — give up power, it threatened to unleash untold ethnic and religious killings.  But with regional and international diplomacy, and U.N. peacekeepers who stood their ground and protected civilians, the former leader is now in The Hague, and Côte D’Ivoire is governed by its rightful leader — and lives were saved.

When the Libyan people demanded their rights and Muammar Qaddafi’s forces bore down on Benghazi, a city of 700,000, and threatened to hunt down its people like rats, we forged with allies and partners a coalition that stopped his troops in their tracks.  And today, the Libyan people are forging their own future, and the world can take pride in the innocent lives that we saved.

And when the Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony continued its atrocities in Central Africa, I ordered a small number of American advisors to help Uganda and its neighbors pursue the LRA.  And when I made that announcement, I directed my National Security Council to review our progress after 150 days.  We have done so, and today I can announce that our advisors will continue their efforts to bring this madman to justice, and to save lives.  (Applause.)  It is part of our regional strategy to end the scourge that is the LRA, and help realize a future where no African child is stolen from their family and no girl is raped and no boy is turned into a child soldier.

We’ve stepped up our efforts in other ways.  We’re doing more to protect women and girls from the horror of wartime sexual violence.  With the arrest of fugitives like Ratko Mladic, charged with ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the world sent a message to war criminals everywhere:  We will not relent in bringing you to justice.  Be on notice.  And for the first time, we explicitly barred entry into the United States of those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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.

Going forward, we’ll strengthen our tools across the board, and we’ll create new ones.  The intelligence community will prepare, for example, the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on the risk of mass atrocities and genocide.  We’re going to institutionalize the focus on this issue.  Across government, “alert channels” will ensure that information about unfolding crises — and dissenting opinions — quickly reach decision-makers, including me.

Our Treasury Department will work to more quickly deploy its financial tools to block the flow of money to abusive regimes.  Our military will take additional steps to incorporate the prevention of atrocities into its doctrine and its planning.  And the State Department will increase its ability to surge our diplomats and experts in a crisis.  USAID will invite people and high-tech companies to help create new technologies to quickly expose violations of human rights.  And we’ll work with other nations so the burden is better shared — because this is a global responsibility.

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.  (Applause.)

We recognize that, even as we do all we can, we cannot control every event.  And when innocents suffer, it tears at our conscience.  Elie alluded to what we feel as we see the Syrian people subjected to unspeakable violence, simply for demanding their universal rights.  And we have to do everything we can.  And as we do, we have to remember that despite all the tanks and all the snipers, all the torture and brutality unleashed against them, the Syrian people still brave the streets.  They still demand to be heard.  They still seek their dignity.  The Syrian people have not given up, which is why we cannot give up.

And so with allies and partners, we will keep increasing the pressure, with a diplomatic effort to further isolate Assad and his regime, so that those who stick with Assad know that they are making a losing bet.  We’ll keep increasing sanctions to cut off the regime from the money it needs to survive.  We’ll sustain a legal effort to document atrocities so killers face justice, and a humanitarian effort to get relief and medicine to the Syrian people.  And we’ll keep working with the “Friends of Syria” to increase support for the Syrian opposition as it grows stronger.

Indeed, today we’re taking another step.  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.  And in such moments it can be hard to imagine a more just world.

It can be tempting to throw up our hands and resign ourselves to man’s endless capacity for cruelty.  It’s tempting sometimes to believe that there is nothing we can do.  And all of us have those doubts.  All of us have those moments — perhaps especially those who work most ardently in these fields.

So in the end, I come back to something Elie said that day we visited Buchenwald together.  Reflecting on all that he had endured, he said, “We had the right to give up.”  “We had the right to give up on humanity, to give up on culture, to give up on education, to give up on the possibility of living one’s life with dignity, in a world that has no place for dignity.”  They had that right.  Imagine what they went through.  They had the right to give up.  Nobody would begrudge them that.  Who’d question someone giving up in such circumstances?

But, Elie 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.  (Applause.)  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.

So God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
10:27 A.M. EDT

Fact Sheet: Sanctions Against Those Complicit in Grave Human Rights Abuses Via Information Technology in Syria and Iran

“Cyberspace, and the technologies that enable it, allow people of every nationality, race, faith and point of view to communicate, cooperate, and prosper like never before.  We encourage people all over the world to use digital media…and denounce those who harass, unfairly arrest, threaten, or commit violent acts against the people who use these technologies.
-President Obama, International Strategy for Cyberspace, May 2011
Twenty-first century threats to human rights require twenty-first century tools to combat them.  This Administration recognizes that some oppressive governments seek to target their citizens for grave human rights abuses through the use of information and communications technology.  In an Executive Order signed today, President Obama authorized a new program of sanctions, aimed at those who facilitate serious human rights abuses in Syria and Iran through such means.

The same Global Positioning System (GPS), satellite communications, mobile phone, and Internet technology employed by activists across the Middle East and North Africa and around the world is being used against them in Syria and Iran, as the world has witnessed particularly clearly in Syria in recent weeks.  The Syrian and Iranian governments are rapidly increasing their capabilities to disrupt, monitor, and track communications networks that are essential to the ability of Syrians and Iranians to communicate with each other and the outside world.

The Executive Order announced today by President Obama establishes financial and travel sanctions against those who perpetrate or facilitate “Grave Human Rights Abuses Via Information Technology” in Syria and Iran (or “GHRAVITY sanctions”) and will:

• Degrade the ability of the Syrian and Iranian governments to acquire and utilize such technology to oppress their people;
• Hold accountable those government officials, companies, and individuals committing or facilitating human rights abuses.
• Send a clear message that the United States recognizes and is committed to combating this new and growing human rights threat;
• Further isolate the regimes in Damascus and Tehran;
• Strengthen international norms against using information and communications technology to commit human rights abuses;
The order authorizes sanctions against persons determined:

• To have operated, or to have directed the operation of, information and communications technology that facilitates computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria;
• To have sold, leased, or otherwise provided, directly or indirectly, goods, services, or technology to Iran or Syria likely to be used to facilitate computer or network disruption, monitoring or tracking that could assist in or enable serious human rights abuses by or on behalf of the Government of Iran or the Government of Syria;
• To have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, those activities; or
• To be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to the order.
We will implement this sanctions instrument consistent with our strong belief in the need to ensure that the citizens of Syria and Iran have access to information and communications technology that facilitates their access to information and ability to protect and organize themselves in the face of oppression.  This order underscores our efforts to help the Syrian and Iranian people pierce through the “electronic curtain” that the Syrian and Iranian regimes have put in place.  The Administration recognizes the importance of preserving the global telecommunications supply chains for essential products and services, and will take great care to ensure the utilization of sanctions does not disrupt transactions necessary to enable the Syrian and Iranian people to communicate.

Given the deplorable and deteriorating human rights situation in Syria and Iran, our urgent priority is to pursue sanctions against those two governments and entities and individuals in those countries helping them to commit human rights abuses.  The order also authorizes sanctions against third-country entities or individuals where they meet the criteria in the order.

Obama Presidency April 20, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech on April 23, 2012 Honoring the Pledge of ‘Never Again’ at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Join the Conversation: Honoring the Pledge of ‘Never Again’

Source: WH, 4-20-12

On Monday, April 23, President Obama will speak at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to commemorate the Holocaust and discuss how the United States is honoring the pledge of “never again” by developing a comprehensive strategy to prevent and respond to mass atrocities.

Later in the afternoon, the White House is hosting an event that will offer a more in-depth look at the strategy President Obama and his Administration are working to put in place so that the United States is able to engage early, proactively and decisively in the face of mass atrocities.

Here’s how you can get involved:

  • 9:45 a.m. ET: Watch President Obama’s live on WhiteHouse.gov/live or on Facebook. Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel will introduce the President.
    • To discuss the speech online, use the hashtag #NeverAgain
  • 1:00 p.m. ET: Watch the White House event with Administration officials, student leaders and organizations about how communities across America are mobilizing and playing a role in saving lives around the word.
    • To ask questions for the panel discussions, use the hashtag #WHChat on Twitter.
    • On Facebook, you can ask questions in advance for the panel on our Facebook event page or through the White House Live application.

The agenda for the post-speech event, which begins at 1:00 p.m., includes:

  • A Q&A session with the newly created Atrocities Prevention Board, an interagency group tasked with coordinating the prevention of and response to mass atrocities across the U.S. government
  • A discussion with leaders from influential activist organizations about the work their networks are doing across the country and around the globe to save lives and prevent needless violence.
  • A discussion about how the government can adapt to take advantage of new technology that make it easier to communicate and connect with people around the world than ever before.
%d bloggers like this: