Full Text Political Transcripts May 23, 2017: President Donald Trump’s Speech at Yad Vashem

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump at Yad Vashem

Source: WH, 5-23-17

Jerusalem

1:27 P.M. IDT

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu, Chairman Avner Shalev, and Rabbi Israel Meir Lau for hosting us for this moving wreath-laying ceremony.

We are here at Yad Vashem to honor the memory of six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.  Two-thirds of the Jews in Europe were sent to their deaths.  Words can never describe the bottomless depths of that evil, or the scope of the anguish and destruction.

It was history’s darkest hour.  Millions of innocent, wonderful and beautiful lives — men, women and children — were extinguished as part of a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people.  It was the most savage crime against God and his children.  And it is our solemn duty to remember, to mourn, to grieve and to honor every single life that was so cruelly and viciously taken.

As Elie Wiesel said: “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”  These words should be carved into the conscience of humanity forever.  Only when we remember the families who were torn apart from everyone they loved, who suffered that terrible darkness and evil, who endured the unbearable horror of the Holocaust — only then can we prevent this agony from ever repeating.

This place, and this entire nation, are a testament to the unbreakable spirit of the Jewish people — and the hope that light can shine the path beyond the darkness.  Through persecution, oppression, death, and destruction, the Jewish people have persevered.  They have thrived.  They’ve become so successful in so many places.  And they have enlightened the world.  The State of Israel is a strong and soaring monument to the solemn pledge we repeat and affirm:  Never again.

From the depths of the suffering, the Jewish people have built a mighty nation — and the Star of David waves proudly above this cherished land.

As long as we refuse to be silent in the face of evil, as long as we refuse to dim the light of truth in the midst of darkness, as long as we refuse to become bystanders to barbarity, then we know that goodness, peace and justice will ultimately prevail.

With sadness for the lives and dreams that were stolen from this Earth, with determination to always keep the memories of the victims alive, and with resolve to confront evil wherever it threatens, we ask God to give us the strength, wisdom and courage to chart the righteous path.

Thank you.  God bless the memory of the perished.  God bless the survivors.  God bless the Jewish people.  And God bless the State of Israel.  Thank you for having me.  Thank you.

END
1:34 P.M. IDT

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Full Text Political Transcripts May 22, 2017: President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Joint Statement Remarks

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu in Joint Statement

Source: WH, 5-22-17

President Trump meets with Prime Minister Netanyahu

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Prime Minister’s Residence
Jerusalem

8:17 P.M. SAST

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  President Trump, Donald, Sara and I are absolutely delighted to welcome you and Melania to the Prime Minister’s residence in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the Jewish people, the united capital of the Jewish state.

We’ve known each other for many years, and it’s always good to see you.  But it’s also wonderful to see the blossoming friendship between our two beautiful wives, Sara and Melania.  You’re so welcome here, and we’re so pleased to see you.  We’re honored to have you in our home.

You’ve been today, Mr. President, to the Western Wall, one of the holiest sites of Judaism.  You have been to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, one of the holiest sites of Christianity.  We protect the Christian sites as no one else does anywhere in this region.  We protect Christian sites, Muslim sites, obviously Jewish sites.  We’re committed to the freedom of all faiths and to the rights of all.

Mr. President, I appreciate the fact that you went to the Western Wall and you’re the first acting President who’s done that.  The people of Israel applaud you for it.  (Applause.)

We had a terrific discussion today.  And when I say terrific, it encompasses everything.  We can talk about deregulation, we can talk about economics.  I think we quote each other.  We understand each other and so much of the things that we wish to accomplish for both our countries.

But I want to thank you especially today for your deep commitment to Israel’s security, its wellbeing, and its future.  I have no doubt that, as we work together, you and I, the alliance between our countries will grow ever stronger.  I want you to know how much we appreciate the change in American policy on Iran, which you enunciated so clearly just an hour ago.

I want you to know how much we appreciate your bold decision to act against the use of chemical weapons in Syria.  And I want to tell you also how much we appreciate the reassertion of American leadership in the Middle East.

I look forward to working closely with you to confront the dangers we face together in this violent and volatile Middle East.  I believe that together we can roll back Iran’s march of aggression and terror in this region, and we can thwart Iran’s unbridled ambition to become a nuclear weapon state.

I also look forward to working closely with you to advance peace in our region, because you have noted so succinctly that common dangers are turning former enemies into partners.  And that’s where we see something new and potentially something very promising.  It won’t be simple.  But for the first time in many years — and, Mr. President, for the first time in my lifetime — I see a real hope for change.

The Arab leaders who you met yesterday could help change the atmosphere, and they could help create the conditions for a realistic peace.  These are all great signs on your historic visit.  It’s a visit that I think has echoed down the ages, because the great Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said that there was no city on Earth he so much desired to see as Jerusalem.

Well, Mr. President, Donald, there’s no city on Earth where you are more welcome than right here with us in Jerusalem.  Welcome to Jerusalem.  Welcome to Israel.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Thank you very much.  And it’s a great honor to be with my good friend, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and, of course, Sara.  Thank you.  And also thank you for that beautiful tour.  Melania is still talking about it.  Thank you very much.

You honored me and Melania by being one of the first world leaders to visit the White House, as you know.  And we had a very good and sound discussion.  And now you honor us again by welcoming us to your home on my first trip abroad as the President of the United States.

This is a land filled with beauty, wonder, and the spirit of God.  I’ve been amazed by the glorious and beautiful monuments and holy sites, and the generosity of your incredible people.  Because it’s all about the people.  I was deeply moved by my visit today to the Western Wall.  Words fail to capture the experience.  It will leave an impression on me forever.

Today, we reaffirmed the unbreakable bond of friendship between Israel and the United States — a friendship built on our shared love of freedom, our shared belief in human dignity, and our shared hope for an Israel at lasting peace.  We want Israel to have peace.

But we are more than friends.  We are great allies.  We have so many opportunities in front of us.  But we must seize them together.  We must take advantage of the situation, and there are many, many things that can happen now that would never have been able to happen before.  And we understand that very well.  That includes advancing prosperity, defeating the evils of terrorism, and facing the threat of an Iranian regime that is threatening the region and causing so much violence and suffering.

During my travels, I have seen many hopeful signs that lead me to believe that we can truly achieve a more peaceful future for this region and for people of all faiths and all beliefs and, frankly, all over the world.

In my visit to Saudi Arabia, I met with many leaders of the Arab and Muslim world, including King Salman, who treated us so beautifully and really wants to see great things happen for the world.  He really does.  I got to know him well, and he really does.

These leaders voiced concerns we all share — about ISIS, about Iran’s rising ambitions and rolling back its gains, and about the menace of extremism that has spread through too many parts of the Muslim world.  I’m encouraged that they pledge cooperation to confront terrorism and the hateful ideology that drives it so hard.  America welcomes the action and support of any nation willing to do the hard but vital work in eradicating the violent ideologies that have caused so much needless bloodshed and killing here and all over the world.

We are willing to work together.  I believe that a new level of partnership is possible and will happen — one that will bring greater safety to this region, greater security to the United States, and greater prosperity to the world.  This includes a renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I thank the Prime Minister for his commitment to pursuing the peace process.  He’s working very hard at it.  It’s not easy.  I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually, I hope.

I’m certain we will have very productive discussions.  And we’re going to have very productive discussions, in my opinion, with the leaders of other nations also.  And I feel strongly about that, because there’s a lot of love out there.  And people from all nations, even nations that you would be surprised to hear, they want to stop the killing.  They’ve had enough.

America stands ready to assist in every way we can.  Our deep and lasting friendship will only grow deeper and stronger as we work together in the days ahead.  I thank you again for hosting us in this beautiful and ancient land.  Truly, it’s a land of wonders.  And it’s my honor to be here with you.

Sara, thank you.  Bibi, thank you.  I appreciate it very much.  Great honor.  Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER NETANYAHU:  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
8:28 P.M. SAST

Readout of Meeting Between President Donald J. Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Source: WH, 5-22-17

Yesterday, President Donald J. Trump met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on President Trump’s first official visit to Israel as President.  The two leaders reaffirmed the special bond between the United States and Israel.  President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed their joint plan to further improve relations by focusing on increased cooperation across a range of issues, including regional and cyber security, trade, technology, innovation, and research.  President Trump underscored the United States’ ironclad commitment to Israel’s security, including to the maintenance of Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge.  The two leaders also agreed on the need to counter Iran and its proxies, including by building strong military capabilities to protect Israel and the region from Iranian aggression.  The two leaders commended the Riyadh summit’s condemnation of terrorism and extremism and pledged to work together to defeat terrorist organizations.   President Trump observed that common interests between Israel and Arab states have made new partnerships possible.  Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed his desire for better relations with Arab states.  The two leaders agreed on the need to end the violence in Syria and move toward a political solution that will allow the Syrian people to return to secure environments and rebuild their lives.

President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed how to move forward with Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.  President Trump reaffirmed his belief that peace is possible, not only between Israelis and Palestinians, but throughout large parts of the Middle East.  President Trump welcomed the steps that Prime Minister Netanyahu’s security cabinet have taken to improve the Palestinian economy, noting that greater economic opportunity for Palestinians would enhance the prospects for peace.

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

 

Political Headlines March 22, 2013: President Barack Obama Tours Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Israel

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Tours Holocaust Memorial in Israel

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-22-13

Pool photo/Peter Maer/CBS News

On his third day in the Middle East, President Obama toured Vad Yashem, Israel’s memorial for Jews killed in the Holocaust during World War II.

“You could come here a thousand times and each time our hearts would break for here we see the depravity to which man could sink,” Obama said on Friday….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 22, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Hall of Children, Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Museum in Jerusalem Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Hall of Children, Yad Vashem

Source: WH, 3-22-13 

Yad Vashem
Jerusalem

10:22 A.M. IST

THE PRESIDENT:  “Unto them I will give my house and within my walls a memorial and a name…an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”

President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, Chairman Shalev, Rabbi Lau — thank you for sharing this house, this memorial, with me today.  And thank you to the people of Israel for preserving the names of the millions taken from us, of blessed memory — names that shall never be forgotten.

This is my second visit to this living memorial.  Since then, I’ve walked among the barbed wire and guard towers of Buchenwald.  Rabbi Lau told me of his time there, and we reminisced about our good friend, Elie Wiesel, and the memories that he shared with me.  I have stood in the old Warsaw ghetto, with survivors who would not go quietly.  But nothing equals the wrenching power of this sacred place, where the totality of the Shoah is told.  We could come here a thousand times, and each time our hearts would break.

For here we see the depravity to which man can sink; the barbarism that unfolds when we begin to see our fellow human beings as somehow less than us, less worthy of dignity and of life.  We see how evil can, for a moment in time, triumph when good people do nothing, and how silence abetted a crime unique in human history.

Here we see their faces and we hear their voices.  We look upon the objects of their lives — the art that they created, the prayer books that they carried.  We see that even as they had hate etched into their arms, they were not numbers.  They were men and women and children — so many children — sent to their deaths because of who they were, how they prayed, or who they loved.

And yet, here, alongside man’s capacity for evil, we also are reminded of man’s capacity for good — the rescuers, the Righteous Among the Nations who refused to be bystanders.  And in their noble acts of courage, we see how this place, this accounting of horror, is, in the end, a source of hope.

For here we learn that we are never powerless.  In our lives we always have choices.  To succumb to our worst instincts or to summon the better angels of our nature.  To be indifferent to suffering to wherever it may be, whoever it may be visited upon, or to display the empathy that is at the core of our humanity.  We have the choice to acquiesce to evil or make real our solemn vow — “never again.”  We have the choice to ignore what happens to others, or to act on behalf of others and to continually examine in ourselves whatever dark places there may be that might lead to such actions or inactions.  This is our obligation — not simply to bear witness, but to act.

For us, in our time, this means confronting bigotry and hatred in all of its forms, racism, especially anti-Semitism.  None of that has a place in the civilized world — not in the classrooms of children; not in the corridors of power.  And let us never forget the link between the two.  For our sons and daughters are not born to hate, they are taught to hate.  So let us fill their young hearts with the same understanding and compassion that we hope others have for them.

Here we hope.  Because after you walk through these halls, after you pass through the darkness, there is light — a glorious view of the Jerusalem Forest, with the sun shining over the historic homeland of the Jewish people; a fulfillment of the prophecy: “you shall live again…upon your own soil.”  Here, on your ancient land, let it be said for all the world to hear:  The State of Israel does not exist because of the Holocaust.  But with the survival of a strong Jewish State of Israel, such a Holocaust will never happen again.

Here we pray that we all can be better; that we can all grow, like the sapling near the Children’s Memorial — a sapling from a chestnut tree that Anne Frank could see from her window.  The last time she described it in her diary, she wrote: “Our chestnut tree is in full bloom.  It’s covered with leaves and is even more beautiful than last year.”  That’s a reminder of who we can be.  But we have to work for it.  We have to work for it here in Israel.  We have to work for it in America.  We have to work for it around the world — to tend the light and the brightness as opposed to our worst instincts.

So may God bless the memory of the millions.  May their souls be bound up in the bond of eternal life.  And may each spring bring a full bloom even more beautiful than the last.

END
10:29 A.M. IST

Full Text Obama Presidency April 19, 2012: White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew’s Speech Presenting the Elie Wiesel Award to Aung San Suu Kyi at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Tribute Dinner

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

Jack Lew Honors Aung San Suu Kyi

Source: WH, 4-19-12

On Wednesday evening, White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew offered remarks at the presentation of the Elie Wiesel Award to Aung San Suu Kyi at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Tribute Dinner. In the speech, Lew spoke about his own experience as a young man and the importance of the work that Aung San Suu Kyi and the Museum do.

His full remarks as prepared for delivery are below:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Good evening.

It is an honor for me to join such a distinguished group of speakers and guests this evening.  I’d also like to add my thanks to all of the board members, contributors, and staff who support the mission of the Holocaust Museum. And I know how much President Obama is looking forward to visiting the museum on Monday.

My father was born in Poland, and his family left their small town at the end of World War I.

Many of his neighbors and relatives were not so lucky. And he made it here to America, a country where he did not need to live in fear. A country where even the son of an Eastern European immigrant could become Chief of Staff to the President of the United States.

As a child, there were constant reminders of how lucky my family had been. I grew up in a neighborhood that was home to many Holocaust survivors, at a time when the Holocaust was something that just wasn’t talked about.  When peoples’ numbers showed on their arm, they would pull their sleeve down.

It is amazing how much has changed.  Today, thanks in no small part to your work at the Holocaust Museum, the Holocaust is something we do talk about.  A child born in America today may never meet a Holocaust survivor, or even a veteran of World War II. But they will always know what happened, and be able to remember and honor those who lost their lives.

Because the Holocaust Museum is not only about commemorating the past. It is about shaping the future. You have always believed that, in the words of Elie Wiesel, “the memory of evil will serve as a shield against evil; that the memory of death will serve as a shield against death.”

With that in mind, it is my great honor to join you for the presentation of the Second Elie Wiesel Award.  As you know, the first recipient was Elie Wiesel himself.  And I can think of no better second recipient than Aung San Suu Kyi.

I say this not only because Daw Suu has lived an extraordinary and courageous life.  I say this because she could have so easily chosen a different path, one of comfort and convenience. She went to university in London.  Lived in countries around the world, including the United States and India.  She knew there were plenty of opportunities for her outside of Burma.

And she knew the risks involved in her decision to advocate for democracy.

After all, her own father had been assassinated by political rivals, four decades earlier. But she stayed in Burma anyway.  For 15 of the first 21 years after she emerged as a leader of the pro-democracy movement, she was under house arrest – and even then, she had a choice. She was offered her freedom, in exchange for exile, and she refused.

Many times, Daw Suu could have decided that she had done enough – that it was someone else’s turn to sacrifice. But she refused to give up. Instead, she continued to inspire the entire world with her faith in non-violent action, and her belief that freedom would ultimately prove greater than tyranny.

For decades, Aung San Suu Kyi’s story has given hope to those who had none, both in her country, and around the world.

And today, even as we gather here, a new chapter in that story is being written. As President Obama put it last November, in Burma we are seeing “flickers of progress.”

President Obama made that statement – and the historic decision to send Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Burma – after becoming the first U.S. President to speak to Daw Suu. In that conversation, he wanted to hear firsthand from her, before moving forward with his decision. He was able to hear her views about democratic reform and reconciliation.

They were also able to talk a little about lighter topics – she even gave her best to Bo. And they both looked forward to the day when they could see each other in person.

As President Obama and Secretary Clinton reached out to engage Burma and to encourage the Burmese government to begin the challenging journey to a democratic and prosperous future, they were reflecting a broader vision of America’s role – and our responsibility – in the world.

The President described this vision in his Inaugural Address.

He said, “To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to un-clench your fist.”

In other words, as Americans, we recognize that the world’s democracies must stand up when democratic principles and human rights are denied.  But when governments such as Burma move in the direction of democratic reform, they will be met in a spirit of partnership and respect by the United States.  We will match their progress action for action—and offer encouragement and support as they continue down the long and difficult road that lies before them.

Our commitment to that vision is unwavering. We know that the path toward democracy is never easy, and that significant challenges lie ahead, for Aung San Suu Kyi, for Burma, and for our entire world.  But tonight, we celebrate a woman whose dedication to shining a light on injustice and abuse has led to the beginnings of a transformation in her country, and we look toward the future with renewed confidence, and renewed hope.

Thank you.

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