Full Text Political Transcripts April 25, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National Days of Remembrance

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at United States Holocaust Memorial Museum National Days of Remembrance

Source: WH, 4-25-17

United States Capitol
Washington, D.C.

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Friends, members of Congress, ambassadors, veterans, and, most especially, to the survivors here with us today, it’s an honor to join you on this very, very solemn occasion.  I am deeply moved to stand before those who survived history’s darkest hour.  Your cherished presence transforms this place into a sacred gathering.

Thank you, Tom Bernstein, Alan Holt, Sara Bloomfield, and everyone at the Holocaust Memorial Council and Museum for your vital work and tireless contributions.

We are privileged to be joined by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, friend of mine — he’s done a great job and said some wonderful words — Ron Dermer.  The State of Israel is an eternal monument to the undying strength of the Jewish people.  The fervent dream that burned in the hearts of the oppressed is now filled with the breath of life, and the Star of David waves atop a great nation arisen from the desert.

To those in the audience who have served America in uniform, our country eternally thanks you.  We are proud and grateful to be joined today by veterans of the Second World War who liberated survivors from the camps.  Your sacrifice helped save freedom for the world — for the entire world.  (Applause.)

Sadly, this year marks the first Day of Remembrance since the passing of Elie Wiesel, a great person, a great man.  His absence leaves an empty space in our hearts, but his spirit fills this room.  It is the kind of gentle spirit of an angel who lived through hell, and whose courage still lights the path from darkness.  Though Elie’s story is well known by so many people, it’s always worth repeating.  He suffered the unthinkable horrors of the Holocaust.  His mother and sister perished in Auschwitz.  He watched his father slowly dying before his own young eyes in Buchenwald.  He lived through an endless nightmare of murder and death, and he inscribed on our collective conscience the duty we have to remember that long, dark night so as never to again repeat it.

The survivors in this hall, through their testimony, fulfill the righteous duty to never forget, and engrave into the world’s memory the Nazi genocide of the Jewish people.  You witnessed evil, and what you saw is beyond description, beyond any description.  Many of you lost your entire family, everything and everyone you loved, gone.  You saw mothers and children led to mass slaughter.  You saw the starvation and the torture.  You saw the organized attempt at the extermination of an entire people — and great people, I must add.  You survived the ghettos, the concentration camps and the death camps.  And you persevered to tell your stories.  You tell of these living nightmares because, despite your great pain, you believe in Elie’s famous plea, that “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”

That is why we are here today — to remember and to bear witness.  To make sure that humanity never, ever forgets.
The Nazis massacred 6 million Jews.  Two out of every three Jews in Europe were murdered in the genocide.  Millions more innocent people were imprisoned and executed by the Nazis without mercy, without even a sign of mercy.

Yet, even today, there are those who want to forget the past.  Worse still, there are even those filled with such hate, total hate, that they want to erase the Holocaust from history.  Those who deny the Holocaust are an accomplice to this horrible evil.  And we’ll never be silent — we just won’t — we will never, ever be silent in the face of evil again.  (Applause.)

Denying the Holocaust is only one of many forms of dangerous anti-Semitism that continues all around the world.  We’ve seen anti-Semitism on university campuses, in the public square, and in threats against Jewish citizens.  Even worse, it’s been on display in the most sinister manner when terrorists attack Jewish communities, or when aggressors threaten Israel with total and complete destruction.

This is my pledge to you:  We will confront anti-Semitism (Applause.)  We will stamp out prejudice.  We will condemn hatred.  We will bear witness.  And we will act.  As President of the United States, I will always stand with the Jewish people — and I will always stand with our great friend and partner, the State of Israel.

So today, we remember the 6 million Jewish men, women and children whose lives and dreams were stolen from this Earth.
We remember the millions of other innocent victims the Nazis so brutally targeted and so brutally killed.  We remember the survivors who bore more than we can imagine.  We remember the hatred and evil that sought to extinguish human life, dignity, and freedom.

But we also remember the light that shone through the darkness.  We remember sisters and brothers who gave everything to those they loved — survivors like Steven Springfield, who, in the long death march, carried his brother on his back.  As he said, “I just couldn’t give in.”

We remember the brave souls who banded together to save the lives of their neighbors — even at the risk of their own life.  And we remember those first hopeful moments of liberation, when at long last the American soldiers arrived in camps and cities throughout occupied Europe, waving the same beautiful flags before us today, speaking those three glorious words:  “You are free.”

It is this love of freedom, this embrace of human dignity, this call to courage in the face of evil that the survivors here today have helped to write onto our hearts.  The Jewish people have endured oppression, persecution, and those who have sought and planned their destruction.  Yet, through the suffering, they have persevered.  They have thrived.  And they have enlightened the world.  We stand in awe of the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people.

I want to close with a story enshrined in the Museum that captures the moment of liberation in the final days of the war.
It is the story of Gerda Klein, a young Jewish woman from Poland. Some of you know her.  Gerda’s family was murdered by the Nazis. She spent three years imprisoned in labor camps, and the last four months of the war on a terrible death march.  She assumed it was over.  At the end, on the eve of her 21st birthday, her hair had lost all of its color, and she weighed a mere 68 pounds.  Yet she had the will to live another day.  It was tough.

Gerda later recalled the moment she realized that her long-awaited deliverance had arrived.  She saw a car coming towards her.  Many cars had driven up before, but this one was different.  On its hood, in place of that wretched swastika, was a bright, beautiful, gleaming white star.  Two American soldiers got out. One walked up to her.  The first thing Gerda said was what she had been trained to say:  “We are Jewish, you know.”  “We are Jewish.”  And then he said, “So am I.”  It was a beautiful moment after so much darkness, after so much evil.

As Gerda took this solider to see the other prisoners, the American did something she had long forgotten to even expect — he opened the door for her.  In Gerda’s words, “that was the moment of restoration of humanity, of humanness, of dignity, and of freedom.”

But the story does not end there.  Because, as some of you know, that young American soldier who liberated her and who showed her such decency would soon become her husband.  A year later, they were married.  In her words, “He opened not only the door for me, but the door to my life and to my future.”

Gerda has since spent her life telling the world of what she witnessed.  She, like those survivors who are among us today, has dedicated her life to shining a light of hope through the dark of night.

Your courage strengthens us.  Your voices inspire us.  And your stories remind us that we must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth about evil in our time.  Evil is always seeking to wage war against the innocent and to destroy all that is good and beautiful about our common humanity.  But evil can only thrive in darkness.  And what you have brought us today is so much more powerful than evil.  You have brought us hope — hope that love will conquer hatred, that right will defeat wrong, and that peace will rise from the ashes of war.

Each survivor here today is a beacon of light, and it only takes one light to illuminate even the darkest space.  Just like it takes only one truth to crush a thousand lies and one hero to change the course of history.  We know that in the end, good will triumph over evil, and that as long as we refuse to close our eyes or to silence our voices, we know that justice will ultimately prevail.

So today we mourn.  We remember.  We pray.  And we pledge:  Never again.

Thank you.  God bless you, and God bless America.  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
11:45 A.M. EDT

 

Full Text Political Transcripts April 24, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Remarks to the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s Remarks to the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly

Full Text Obama Presidency December 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Afternoon and evening Hanukkah ReceptionsFull Text Obama Presidency December 15, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at “Christmas in Washington” — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks By The President At Evening Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-17-14 

State Floor

8:03 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy Hanukkah!

AUDIENCE:  Happy Hanukkah!

THE PRESIDENT:  This is a particularly good-looking Hanukkah crowd.

MRS. OBAMA:  It’s good.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s very impressive.

Now, every year, Michelle and I like to invite just a few friends over for a small Hanukkah celebration.  (Laughter.)   Nothing fancy.  This is the second year we’ve invited so many friends that we ended up having to have two Hanukkah parties.  (Applause.)   We had one earlier this afternoon.  I have to tell you, this is the better party.  (Applause.)  Don’t tell anybody because —

MRS. OBAMA:  He said that earlier.

THE PRESIDENT:  I said that earlier.  (Laughter.)  But I really mean it this time.  (Applause.)

We are blessed to have so many friends and dignitaries here. I want to welcome Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer, who’s here, and his wife, Rhoda –- (applause) — all our friends from the State of Israel, who remind us that the bonds between our two countries are unbreakable.  (Applause.)

We have leaders from across my administration, including our outstanding Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew.  (Applause.) Council of Economic Advisers Chair, Jason Furman.  Give Jason some more — Jason actually is the guy who gives me the jobs report every month.  Ever since he’s come on they’ve been really good.  So give Jason a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

National Economic Council Director Jeff Zients is here.  (Applause.)  We’ve got the Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley. (Applause.)  We’ve got all kinds of members of Congress here, including our DNC Chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  (Applause.)  The president of the Anti-Defamation League, Abe Foxman.  (Applause.)  And a member of my team who’s leaving to become ADL’s next president, Jonathan Greenblatt.  (Applause.)

Now, I’m going to begin by saying what a glorious day this is — because, after five years, American Alan Gross is free.  (Applause.)  As all of you know, he was arrested five years ago by Cuban authorities simply for helping ordinary Cubans — including a small Jewish community in Cuba –- just for access information on the Internet.  Today, after 1,840 days, he is back where he belongs — with his wife Judy and his family.  And as you heard Alan say today, this is his best Hanukkah.

From his cell, Alan once wrote, “I refuse to accept that my country would leave me behind.”  And he is right.  We’re committed to the principle that no American ever gets left behind.  We do everything in our power to bring Americans home.  So we thank all those who helped to make sure that Alan was never forgotten.  And as now we’re moving forward, we know that the historic changes I announced today will mean greater opportunity and progress for both Americans and for Cubans, including the small but proud Jewish community in Cuba.  (Applause.)

So we are here to celebrate a story that took place more than 2,000 years ago, when a small group of Maccabees rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors.  In the face of —  what do we got playing there?  (Laughter.)  What you got on your phone?  I was trying to figure out the ringtone.  (Laughter.)

Where was I?  Small group of Maccabees — right!  Rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors.  In the face of   overwhelming odds, they reclaimed their city, and the right to worship as they choose.

And after their victory, the Maccabees found there wasn’t enough oil to keep the flame in their temple alive.  But they lit the oil that they had.  And miraculously, the flame that was supposed to burn for just one night burned for eight.  The Hanukkah story teaches us that our light can shine brighter than even we could imagine — with a little bit of faith, and making sure that it’s up to us to provide that first spark.

The menorahs that we’re about to light remind us of our power to make miracles happen.  It was one of four that were brought here from Israel, and was built by children in Yemin Orde, a village in Israel founded in 1953 to provide a safe haven to orphans and young immigrants after the Holocaust.  More than 60 years later, Yemin Orde still gives children in Israel a shot at a brighter future.  And tonight, Atakalit Tesfaye, a graduate of Yemin Orde, will help us light the Hanukkah candles.  (Applause.)

He will be joined by Dr. Adam Levine.  Now, I just want to be clear, this is not — (laughter) — Adam Levine, People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive — (laughter) — although he’s a pretty sexy guy.  (Laughter.)  This is actually Dr. Adam Levine, Time’s Person of the Year.  (Applause.)  Along with his compatriots, Adam, who recently returned from Liberia, has been doing heroic work for Ebola patients, saving lives.  (Applause.)

Yemin Orde is just one village.  But the story of Hanukkah teaches us that there’s no such thing as a futile act of courage, or a small act of faith.  One doctor can save a life.  One school can help a child.  That life, that child may change a village.  One person can be the spark that changes the world.

So as we gather with family and friends, let’s give thanks to the miracles that we’ve been blessed with in our own lives — miracles large and small — same ringtone.  (Laughter.)  During this Festival of Lights, let’s commit ourselves to making new miracles, and to sharing them with the world.

I’d now like to invite Rabbi Angela Buchdahl — from Manhattan — (applause) — to lead us in the blessing and candle-lighting.  (Applause.)

END
8:11 P.M. EST

 

Remarks by the President at Afternoon Hanukkah Reception

Source: WH, 12-17-14 

East Room

4:27 P.M. EST

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Happy Hanukkah, Mr. President!

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Happy Hanukkah to you!  (Laughter.)  You stole my line.  (Laughter.)  Happy Hanukkah, everybody.

AUDIENCE:  Happy Hannukah.

MRS. OBAMA:  Welcome to the White House.  I want to welcome the members of Congress who are here today.  We’ve got some Bronfman Fellows — (applause) — who are here from the State of Israel.  (Applause.)  Obviously, the bonds between our two countries are unbreakable, and with the help of young people, they’re only going to grow stronger in the years to come.

Every year, Michelle and I like to invite just a few friends over for a little Hanukkah celebration.  (Laughter.)  Nothing fancy.  Actually, this is the second year we’ve invited so many friends that we’re hosting two parties instead of one.  This is our first party — it is the best party.  (Laughter.)  Don’t tell the others, though.

I want to begin with today’s wonderful news.  I’m told that in the Jewish tradition, one of the great mitzvahs is pidyon shvuyim.  (Applause.)  My Hebrew is not perfect, but I get points for trying.  But it describes the redemption, the freeing, of captives.  And that’s what we’re celebrating today, because after being unjustly held in Cuba for more than five years, American Alan Gross is free.  (Applause.)

Alan has dedicated his life to others — to helping people around the world develop their communities and improve their lives, including Israelis and Palestinians.  He’s a man of deep faith who once worked for the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington.  Five years ago, he was arrested by Cuban authorities simply for helping ordinary Cubans, including Cuba’s small Jewish community, access information on the Internet.  And ever since, those who have loved and cared for Alan never stopped working to bring him home:  Judy, his wife of 44 years, and their daughters, including his oldest daughter who walked down the aisle without her dad on her wedding day.  His mother, who passed away this year without being able to see her son one last time.  His whole family, including his sister-in-law, Gwen Zuares, who joins us here today — where is Gwen?  (Applause.)  Hey, Gwen.  His rabbi, his friends at his congregation in Maryland, Am Kolel, who kept him in their prayers every Shabbat.  Jewish and other faith leaders across the country and around the world, including His Holiness Pope Francis.  And members of Congress and those of us in the United States government.

And Alan has fought back.  He spoke out from his cell, he went on a hunger strike.  With his health deteriorating, his family worried he might not be able to make it out alive.  But he never gave up, and we never gave up.

As I explained earlier, after our many months of discussion with the Cuban government, Alan was finally released this morning on humanitarian grounds.  I spoke to him on his flight.  He said he was willing to interrupt his corned beef sandwich to talk to me.  (Laughter.)  I told him he had mustard in his mustache; I couldn’t actually see it.  (Laughter.)  But needless to say, he was thrilled.  And he landed at Andrews in a plane marked “The United States of America.”  (Applause.)

He’s going to be getting the medical attention that he needs.  He’s back where he belongs — in America, with his family, home for Hanukkah.  And I can’t think of a better way to mark this holiday, with its message that freedom is possible, than with the historic changes that I announced today in our Cuba policy.  (Applause.)  These are changes that are rooted in America’s commitment to freedom and democracy for all the Cuban people, including its small but proud Jewish community.  And Alan’s remarks about the need for these changes was extremely powerful.

So what brings us together is not just lox and latkes — (laughter) — although I have heard the latkes here are outstanding.  (Applause.)  Am I wrong?  Not as good as your mom’s, but they’re good.  (Applause.)

We’re here to celebrate a story that took place more than 2,000 years ago, when a small group of Maccabees rose up to defeat their far more powerful oppressors.  In the face of overwhelming odds, they reclaimed their city and the right to worship as they chose.  And in their victory, they found there wasn’t enough oil to keep the flame in their temple alive.  But they lit the oil they had and, miraculously, the flame that was supposed to burn for just one night burned for eight.  The Hanukkah story teaches us that our light can shine brighter than we could ever imagine with faith, and it’s up to us to provide that first spark.

This is something that Inbar Vardi and Mouran Ibrahim know very well.  They are Israeli ninth-graders at Hand in Hand, which is a bilingual school in Jerusalem.  (Applause.)  For more than a decade, it’s brought Jewish and Arab children together.  So Inbar is Jewish; Mouran is Muslim.

Just two weeks ago, their school’s first-grade classroom was set on fire by arsonists.  In the weeks that followed, they and their classmates could have succumbed to anger or cynicism, but instead they built this menorah, one of four that we brought here from Israel this year.  Each of its branches are dedicated to one of the values their school is founded on — values like community and dignity and equality and peace.  Inbar and Mouran flew here from Israel along with Rebecca Bardach, the mother of a first-grader and second-grader at Hand in Hand, and in just a few minutes the three of them are going to join us in lighting the Hanukkah candles here at the White House.  (Applause.)

So Inbar and Mouran and their fellow students teach us a critical lesson for this time in our history:  The light of hope must outlast the fires of hate.  That’s what the Hanukkah story teaches us.  That’s what our young people can teach us — that one act of faith can make a miracle.  That love is stronger than hate.  That peace can triumph over conflict.  And during this Festival of Lights, let’s commit ourselves to making some small miracles ourselves and then sharing them with the world.

I now want to invite Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson to the podium who can lead us in the blessings for the candle lighting.  Rabbi.  (Applause.)

(The blessings are given.)

END                  4:38 P.M. EST

 

 

 

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?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 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 December 16, 2011: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism

Source: WH, 12-16-11
Gaylord Hotel
National Harbor, Maryland

2:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  Please, please have a seat.  You’re making me blush.  (Laughter.)  Thank you, Eric, for that extraordinary introduction and for your many years of leadership in the Reform movement.  And even though it is a few hours early, I’d like to wish all of you Shabbat shalom.  (Applause.)

Now, there are a lot of familiar faces in the house:  David Saperstein.  (Applause.)  Alan Solow, Rick Jacobs.  (Applause.)  Howard Kohr.

I want to welcome Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak.  (Applause.)  The cooperation between our militaries has never been stronger, and I want to thank Ehud for his leadership and his lifelong commitment to Israel’s security and the quest for a just and lasting peace.  (Applause.)

I also want to recognize Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who’s with us here today.  (Applause.)

And finally, I want to give a shout-out to NFTY, I understand is in the house.  (Applause.)  Young people are going to lead the way, and they’re leading the way.  (Applause.)  There you go.  I’m fired up just listening to them.  (Laughter and applause.)

I am honored to be here because of the proud history and tradition of the Union for Reform Judaism, representing more than 900 congregations, around 1.5 million American Jews.

I want to congratulate all of you on the golden anniversary of the Religious Action Center.  (Applause.)   As Eric mentioned, When President Kennedy spoke to leaders from the RAC in 1961, I was three months old, so my memory is a bit hazy.  (Laughter.)  But I am very familiar with the work that you’ve done ever since, and so is the rest of America.

And that’s because you helped draft the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.  (Applause.)  You helped to liberate Soviet Jews.  (Applause.)  You have made a difference on so many of the defining issues of the last half-century.  And without these efforts, I probably wouldn’t be standing here today.  So thank you.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  You have brought to life your faith and your values, and the world is a better place for it.

Now, since my daughter Malia has reached the age where it seems like there’s always a Bar or Bat Mitzvah — (laughter) — every weekend, and there is quite a bit of negotiations around the skirts that she wears at these Bat Mitzvahs — (laughter) — do you guys have these conversations as well?  (Laughter.)  All right.  I just wanted to be clear it wasn’t just me.  (Laughter.) What time you get home.

As a consequence, she’s become the family expert on Jewish tradition.  (Laughter.)  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from her, it’s that it never hurts to begin a speech by discussing the Torah portion.  It doesn’t hurt.  (Laughter and applause.)

So this week — (applause) — congregations around the world will retell the story of Joseph.  (Applause.)  As any fan of Broadway musicals will tell you — (laughter) — there is a lot going on in this reading.  (Laughter.)  But many scholars have focused on a single word that Joseph uses when he replies to his father Jacob.

In Hebrew, that word is “hineni.”  It translates — (applause) — it translates to “Here I am.”  Hineni.  It’s the same word Abraham uses to reply to God before the binding of Isaac.  It’s the same word Moses uses when God summons him from the burning bush.  Hineni.  The text is telling us that while Joseph does not know what lies ahead, he is ready to answer the call.

In this case, “hineni” leads Joseph to Egypt.  It sets in motion a story of enslavement and exodus that would come to inspire leaders like Martin Luther King as they sought freedom.  It’s a story of persecution and perseverance that has repeated itself from Inquisition-era Spain to Tsarist Russia to Hitler’s Germany.

And in that often-tragic history, this place, America, stands out.  (Applause.)  Now, we can’t whitewash the past.  Like so many ethnic groups, Jews faced prejudice, and sometimes violence, as they sought their piece of the American Dream.  But here, Jews finally found a place where their faith was protected; where hard work and responsibility paid off; where no matter who you were or where you came from, you could make it if you tried.  Here in America, you really could build a better life for your children.

I know how much that story means to many of you, because I know how much that story means to me.  My father was from Kenya; my mother was from Kansas –- not places with a large Jewish community.  (Laughter.)  But when my Jewish friends tell me about their ancestors, I feel a connection.  I know what it’s like to think, “Only in America is my story even possible.”  (Applause.)

Now — I have to interrupt.  My friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz just got in the house.  (Applause.)  Now, the Jewish community has always understood that the dream we share is about more than just doing well for yourself.  From the moment our country was founded, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect.  Your parents, your grandparents, your great-grandparents, they remembered what it was like to be a stranger, and as a result treated strangers with compassion.  They pursued tikkun olam, the hard work of repairing the world.  (Applause.)

They fought bigotry because they had experienced bigotry.  They fought for freedom of religion because they understood what it meant to be persecuted for your religious beliefs.  Our country is a better place because they did.  The same values that bring you here today led Justice Brandeis to fight for an America that protects the least of these.  (Applause.)  Those same values led Jewish leaders to found RAC 50 years ago.  (Applause.)  They led Abraham Joshua Heschel to pray with his feet and march with Dr. King.  (Applause.)  And over the last three years, they have brought us together on the most important issues of our time.

When we began this journey, we knew we would have to take on powerful special interests.  We would have to take on a Washington culture where doing what’s politically convenient is often valued above doing what’s right; where the focus is too often on the next election instead of the next generation.  (Applause.)

And so time and time again, we’ve been reminded that change is never easy.  And a number of the rabbis who are here today, when I see them, they’d been saying a prayer.  They noticed my hair is grayer.  (Laughter.)  But we didn’t quit.  You didn’t quit.  And today, we’re beginning to see what change looks like.

And Eric mentioned what change looks like.  Change is the very first bill I signed, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which says in this country an equal day’s work gets an equal day’s pay.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

Change is finally doing something about our addiction to oil and raising fuel-efficiency standards for the first time in 30 years.  That’s good for our economy.  It’s good for our national security.  (Applause.)  And it’s good for our environment.

Change is confirming two Supreme Court justices who will defend our rights, including our First Amendment rights surrounding religion — happen to be two women, by the way.  That’s also a good thing.  (Applause.)

Change is repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” so that in the first time in history, you don’t have to hide who you love to serve the country that you love.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

Change is working with the Reform movement, and other faith-based groups, to reform the federal faith-based initiatives, improving the way we partner with organizations that serve people in need.  Change is health care reform that we passed after a century of trying, reform that will finally ensure that in the United States of America, nobody goes bankrupt just because they get sick.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

Change is the 2.5 million young people — maybe some of those NFTY folks who have already — (applause) — who have health insurance on their parents’ plans because of Affordable Care Act.  That’s change.  (Applause.)

It’s making family planning more accessible to millions of Americans.  (Applause.)  It’s insurance companies not being able to charge you more just because you’re a woman, or deny you coverage if you have breast cancer.  (Applause.)

Change is committing to real, persistent education reform, because every child in America deserves access to a good school and to higher education — every child.  (Applause.)

And change is keeping one of the first promises I made in 2008:  After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq is ending this month and our troops are coming home.  (Applause.)

That’s what change is.  And none of this would have happened without you.  That’s the kind of change we’ll keep fighting for in the months and years ahead.

And just last night, you took another step towards the change we need and voted for a set of principles of economic justice in a time of fiscal crisis.  (Applause.)  And I want to thank you for your courage.  That statement could not have come at a more important time.  For as you put it, we’re at a crossroads in American history.  Last Tuesday, I gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, where I described that crossroads.  And I laid out a vision of our country where everybody gets a fair shot, and everybody does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules.  (Applause.)  And these are not Democratic values or Republican values; they’re not Christian values or Jewish values or Hindu or Muslim values — they’re shared values, and we have to reclaim them.  We have to restore them to a central place in America’s political life.  (Applause.)

I said it last week, I’ll say it again:  This is not just a political debate.  This is a moral debate.  This is an ethical debate.  It’s a values debate.  It’s the defining issue of our time.  It is a make-or-break moment for the middle class and for all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.  (Applause.)  And for those of us who remember parents or grandparents or great-grandparents who had to fight to get in the middle class, but they understood that the American Dream was available to them because we were all in it together — that’s what this is about.  (Applause.)  And last night, you reaffirmed the moral dimension of this debate.  (Applause.)

We have to decide who we are as a country.  Is this a place where everyone is left to fend for themselves?  The most powerful can play by their own rules?  Or do we come together to make sure that working people can earn enough to raise a family, send their kids to college, buy their own home, have a secure health care and a secure retirement?  That is the story that almost all of us here share, in one way or another.  This is a room full of folks who come from immigrants, and remember what it was like to scratch and claw and work.  You haven’t forgotten.  You know what it’s like to see those in your own family struggle.

Well, we have to apply those same values to the American family.  We’re not a country that says, you’re on your own.  When we see neighbors who can’t find work or pay for college or get the health care they need, we answer the call — we say, “Here I am.”  And we will do our part.  (Applause.)

That’s what you affirmed last night.  But more importantly, it’s what you affirm every day with your words and your actions.  And I promise you that as you pray with your feet, I will be right there with you every step of the way.  (Applause.)  I’ll be fighting to create jobs, and give small businesses a chance to succeed.  I’ll be fighting to invest in education and technology.  I will fight to strengthen programs like Medicare and Social Security.  (Applause.)  I will fight to put more money in the pockets of working families.  I won’t be afraid to ask the most well-off among us -– Americans like me –- to pay our fair share, to make sure that everybody has got a shot.  I will fight alongside you every inch of the way.  (Applause.)

And as all of you know, standing up for our values at home is only part of our work.  Around the world, we stand up for values that are universal — including the right of all people to live in peace and security and dignity.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve worked on the international stage to promote the rights of women — (applause) — to promote strategies to alleviate poverty — (applause) — to promote the dignity of all people, including gays and lesbians — (applause) — and people with disabilities — (applause) — to promote human rights and democracy.  And that’s why, as President, I have never wavered in pursuit of a just and lasting peace — two states for two peoples; an independent Palestine alongside a secure Jewish State of Israel.  (Applause.)  I have not wavered and will not waver.  That is our shared vision.  (Applause.)

Now, I know that many of you share my frustration sometimes, in terms of the state of the peace process.  There’s so much work to do.  But here’s what I know –- there’s no question about how lasting peace will be achieved.  Peace can’t be imposed from the outside.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them.  (Applause.)

And the fact that peace is hard can’t deter us from trying.  Because now more than ever, it’s clear that a just and lasting peace is in the long-term interests of Israel.  It is in the long-term interests of the Palestinian people.  It is in the interest of the region.  It is the interest of the United States, and it is in the interest of the world.  And I am not going to stop in pursuit of that vision.  It is the right thing to do.  (Applause.)

Now, that vision begins with a strong and secure State of Israel.  (Applause.)  And the special bonds between our nations are ones that all Americans hold dear because they’re bonds forged by common interests and shared values.  They’re bonds that transcend partisan politics — or at least they should.  (Applause.)

We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that Israel is born of firmly held values that we, as Americans, share:  a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to tikkun olam.  (Applause.)

So America’s commitment — America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakeable.  It is unshakeable.  (Applause.)

I said it in September at the United Nations.  I said it when I stood amid the homes in Sderot that had been struck by missiles:  No nation can tolerate terror.  And no nation can accept rockets targeting innocent men, women and children.  No nation can yield to suicide bombers.  (Applause.)

And as Ehud has said, it is hard to remember a time when the United States has given stronger support to Israel on its security.  In fact, I am proud to say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours.  None.  Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.  It is a fact.  (Applause.)

I’m proud that even in these difficult times we’ve fought for and secured the most funding for Israel in history.  I’m proud that we helped Israel develop a missile defense system that’s already protecting civilians from rocket attacks.  (Applause.)

Another grave concern -– and a threat to the security of Israel, the United States and the world -– is Iran’s nuclear program.  And that’s why our policy has been absolutely clear:  We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  And that’s why we’ve worked painstakingly from the moment I took office with allies and partners, and we have imposed the most comprehensive, the hardest-hitting sanctions that the Iranian regime has ever faced.  We haven’t just talked about it, we have done it.  And we’re going to keep up the pressure.  (Applause.)  And that’s why, rest assured, we will take no options off the table.  We have been clear.

We’re going to keep standing with our Israeli friends and allies, just as we’ve been doing when they’ve needed us most.  In September, when a mob threatened the Israeli embassy in Cairo, we worked to ensure that the men and women working there were able to get out safely.  (Applause.)  Last year, when raging fires threatened Haifa, we dispatched fire-fighting planes to help put out the blaze. (Applause.)

On my watch, the United States of America has led the way, from Durban to the United Nations, against attempts to use international forums to delegitimize Israel.  And we will continue to do so.  (Applause.)  That’s what friends and allies do for each other.  So don’t let anybody else tell a different story.  We have been there, and we will continue to be there.  Those are the facts.  (Applause.)

And when I look back on the last few years, I’m proud of the decisions I’ve made, and I’m proud of what we’ve done together.  But today isn’t about resting on our laurels.  As your tradition teaches, we’re not obligated to finish the work, but neither are we free to desist from it.  (Applause.)

We’ve got to keep going.  So today we look forward to the world not just as it is but as it could be.  And when we do, the truth is clear:  Our union is not yet perfect.  Our world is still in desperate need of repair.  And each of us still hears that call.

And the question is, how we will respond?  In this moment, every American, of every faith, every background has the opportunity to stand up and say:  Here I am.  Hineni.  Here I am.  I am ready to keep alive our country’s promise.  I am ready to speak up for our values at home and abroad.  I am ready to do what needs to be done.  The work may not be finished in a day, in a year, in a term, in a lifetime, but I’m ready to do my part.  (Applause.)

And I believe that with tradition as our guide, we will seize that opportunity.  And in the face of daunting odds, we will make the choices that are hard but are right.  That’s how we’ve overcome tougher times before.  That’s how we will overcome the challenges that we face today.  And together, we will rewrite the next chapter in America’s story and prove that our best days are still to come.

Thank you, God bless you, God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
3:08 P.M. EST

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