Obama Presidency March 26, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Middle East Trip to Israel & Jordan Photo Gallery

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Photo Gallery: President Obama’s Middle East Trip

Source: WH, 3-26-13

In the first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama embarked on a four-day visit to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.

The White House Photo Office was with the President throughout his travels, and they’ve put together a collection of images from the Middle East trip, which include the President meeting with officials including Prime Minister Netanyahu in Israel, a dance performance in Ramallah, the West Bank and breathtaking shots from Petra, a World Heritage Site in Jordan. Check out the gallery below and visit our Middle East trip page for more information, including video.

The President Pauses For National Anthem
President Obama pauses during the official arrival ceremony in Tel Aviv, Israel. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President Waves To The Audience
President Obama waves at the Jerusalem Convention Center in Jerusalem. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President Visits The Hall Of Remembrance

President Obama pauses during his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

The President Tours The Church Of The Nativity

President Obama tours the crypt containing the birthplace of Jesus. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Political Headlines March 22, 2013: President Barack Obama Ends Israel Trip with Nods to Christianity, Judaism

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Ends Israel Trip with Nods to Christianity, Judaism

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-22-13

Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Concluding his three-day trip to Israel, President Obama got an unplanned look at the political realities plaguing the peace process during a visit to Bethlehem Friday afternoon.

The president was supposed to fly by helicopter to Bethlehem but a windstorm forced him to travel by motorcade instead.  The change in plans was cheered by Palestinians because the president drove past the large concrete wall erected by the Israelis, giving Obama a direct look at the hostilities facing the region on a daily basis….READ MORE

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

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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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

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama Stands Firm on Mideast Two-State Solution in Israel Speech

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Stands Firm on Mideast Two-State Solution

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-21-13

Yin Dongxun-Pool/Getty Images

Speaking before a young Israeli audience in Jerusalem, President Obama Thursday delivered an impassioned plea for Israelis and Palestinians to reach a peaceful two-state solution while he affirmed the “unbreakable bonds of friendship” between the United States and Israel.

“The only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine,” President Obama said at the Jerusalem Convention Center. “Peace is necessary, but peace is also just.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama & President Shimon Peres of Israel’s Speeches at State Dinner

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President and President Peres of Israel at State Dinner

Source: WH, 3-21-13

President’s Residence
Jerusalem

8:15 P.M. IST

PRESIDENT PERES:  I think that’s the President’s remarks.  Mr. President, can I read your speech?  (Laughter.)  They are mistaken.  (Laughter.)

President Barack Obama, my dear friend, let me say first, Bravo.  Bravo, President.  (Applause.)

It is my great pleasure to welcome you tonight.  I was moved the way in which you spoke to the heart of our young Israelis.  Our youngsters, in time of need, are always willing to stand up and defend their country.  Today, you have seen how much the same young people long for peace.  How enthusiastic they were, how engaged they were, listening to the vision of peace, which you beautifully delivered and moved the heart.

Mr. President, this morning several rockets were shot from the Gaza Strip towards civilian targets in Israel, including Sderot that you have visited.  From here, in the name of all us, I want to convey our love to the inhabitants of the south around Gaza who carry this heavy burden courageously and continue to plow their land, plant their trees, raise their children.  It is an inspiration to each of us.  Today, the enemies of peace spoke in the only language they know — the language of terror.  I am convinced that together we shall defeat them.

Dear Barack, your visit here is a historic event.  We are so happy to receive you and your distinguished delegation.  I am very glad to see Secretary John Kerry — an old friend.  John, I know you are and I know you will be successful.  I’m not sure that the prophets have had speechwriters — (laughter) — but if they had, I imagine Isaiah would have said — but actually he has said on that occasion — and I’m quoting him, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.” Well, you have to be satisfied with my language — I cannot speak like him.  (Laughter.)

It is my privilege to present you with our country’s highest honor — the Medal of Distinction.  This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible. Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future.

The people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security.  You are defending our skies — to you, revelation in the name of intelligence, which is the right way to preempt bloodshed.  The diplomatic and the military bonds between us have reached an unprecedented level.

When I visited you in Washington, I thought in my heart, America is so great and we are so small.  I learned that you don’t measure us by size, but by values.  Thank you.  When it comes to values, we are you, and you are us.  On occasions when we were alone you stood with us, so we were not alone.  We were alone together.  We shall never forget it.

During your previous visit to Israel, you asked me if I had any advice to offer.  Well, it’s not my nature to let questions go unanswered.  (Laughter.)  So just that while people say that the future belongs to the young, it is the present that really belongs to the young.  Leave the future to me.  I have time.  (Laughter and applause.)

I think I was right, because the moment you came into office, you immediately had to face daunting and demanding challenges day in, day out.  I prayed that you would meet them with wisdom and determination, without losing hope, without allowing others to lose hope.  The prayers were answered — after all, they came from Jerusalem and they came to us as a great message.  It is a tribute to your leadership, to the strength of your character, to your principles, that you have never surrendered to hopelessness.  You stood and stand firmly by your vision.  Your values serve your nation.  They serve our nation as well.

So I know that you will never stop to strive for a better world, as you said today in a good Hebrew — tikkun olam.  We have a rich heritage and a great dream.  As I look back, I feel that the Israel of today has exceeded the vision we had 65 years ago.  Reality has surpassed the dreams.  The United States of America helped us to make this possible.

Still the path to tomorrow may be fraught with obstacles.  I believe that we can overcome them by our determination and by your commitment.  I’m convinced that you will do whatever is necessary to free the world’s horizons and the skies of Jerusalem from the Iranian threat.  Iran denies the Shoah and calls for a new one.  Iran is building a nuclear bomb and denies it.  The Iranian regime is the greatest danger to world peace.  History has shown time and again that peace, prosperity and stable civil society cannot flourish when threats and belligerency abound.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the Iranian people are celebrating their New Year.  I wish them from the depths of my heart a happy holiday and a real freedom.

Israel will seize any opportunity for peace.  Being small, we have to maintain our qualitative edge.  I know that you responded and will respond to it.  The strength of Israel is its defense forces.  They afford us the ability to seek peace.  And what America has contributed to Israel’s security is the best guarantee to end the march of folly, the march of terror and bloodshed.

We watch with admiration the way you lead the United States of America, the way you have stayed true time and again to your bonds of friendship with us.  Your commitment and deeds speaks volumes about the principles that guides America.  To strive for freedom and democracy at home, but also all over the world, you send the boys to fight for the freedom of others.  What is uplifting is that the United States brought freedom not only to its own people, but never stops, and never will stop, to help other people to become free.

You represent democracy at its best.  You have deepened its meaning — namely that democracy is not just the right to be equal, but the equal right to be different.  Democracy is not just a free expression, but is self-expression as well.

You exemplify the spirit of democracy by striving for justice and equality and opportunity in the American society.  As the world has now become global and yet remains individual, and you offer those principles.  You have shown global responsibility and individual sensitivity.

On Monday night, Mr. President, we shall celebrate Passover, the Festival of Freedom, the Celebration of Spring.  The Celebration of Spring means our journey from the house of slaves to the home of the free that started more than 3,000 years ago. We remember it every year.  We are commended to feel as though each of us personally participated in that journey.  We shall not forget where we came from.  We shall remember always where we are headed, too, which is to make the Promised Land a land of promise, a land of freedom, justice and equality.

While reality calls for vigilance, Passover calls to remain believers.  Israel is an island in a stormy sea.  We have to make our island safe and we wish that the sea will become tranquil.  We converted our desert into a garden.  It was achieved by the talents of our people and the potential of science.  What we have done, Mr. President, can be done all over the Middle East, as you have rightly said tonight.  Israel is described as a start-up nation.  The Middle East can become a start-up region.

Dear President, you noted in your address today that peace is the greatest hope for the human being.  I share your vision.  Your call to reopen the peace process may pave the way for the implementation of the two-state solution agreed by all of us — as you said, a Jewish state, Israel; an Arab state, Palestine.

If I’m not wrong, next to you sits our Prime Minister who was just reelected.  He opened his address in the Knesset by reiterating his commitment to the two-state solution.  Dear friends, I have seen in my life I earned the right to believe that peace is attainable.  As you felt today, I know, this is the deep conviction of our people.  With our resolve and your support, Barack Obama, we shall win and it will happen.

Mr. President, I am privileged to bestow upon you the Medal of Distinction.  It was recommended by a committee of seven prominent Israeli citizens, headed by our former Chief of Justice Meir Shamgar, and includes our former President Yitzhak Navon.  It was my view and I was glad to accept their recommendation.  You inspired the world with your leadership.  Toda raba, Mr. President.  Toda from a grateful nation to a very great leader.

God bless America.  God bless Israel.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  President Peres; Prime Minister Netanyahu and First Lady Sara; distinguished guests and friends.  This is a extraordinary honor for me and I could not be more deeply moved. And I have to say, after the incredible welcome I’ve received over the past two days and the warmth of the Israeli people, the tribute from President Peres, the honor of this medal — I mean, as you say, dayenu.  ((Applause.)

Now, I’m told that the Talmud teaches that you shouldn’t pronounce all the praises of a person in their presence.  And, Mr. President, if I praised all the chapters of your remarkable life, then we would be here all night.  (Laughter.)  So let me simply say this about our gracious host.

Mr. President, the State of Israel has been the cause of your life — through bitter wars and fragile peace, through hardship and prosperity.  You’ve built her.  You’ve cared for her.  You’ve strengthened her.  You’ve nurtured the next generation who will inherit her.

Ben Gurion.  Meir.  Begin.  Rabin.  These giants have left us.  Only you are with us still — a founding father in our midst.  And we are so grateful for your vision, your friendship, but most of all, for your example, including the example of your extraordinary vitality.  Every time I see your President I ask him who his doctor is.  (Laughter.)  We all want to know the secret.

So, with gratitude for your life and your service, and as you prepare to celebrate your 90th birthday this summer — and since I’m starting to get pretty good at Hebrew — (laughter) — let me propose a toast — even though you’ve taken away my wine
— (laughter.)  Come on.  Bring another.

How are you?

SERVER:  Here you are, sir.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  A toast — ad me’ah ve’esrim.  L’chaim! (Applause.)  Mmm, that’s good wine.  (Laughter.)  Actually, we should probably get this out of the photograph.  All these people will say I’m having too much fun in Israel.  (Laughter.)

Just a few more words, Mr. President.  You mentioned that this medal is presented in recognition of progress toward the ideals of equality and opportunity and justice.  But I am mindful that I stand here tonight because of so many others, including the example and the sacrifices of the Jewish people.

In a few days, as we do at every Seder, we’ll break and hide a piece of matzoh.  It’s a great way to entertain the kids.  Malia and Sasha, even though they are getting older, they still enjoy it — and there are a lot of good places to hide it in the White House.  (Laughter.)  But on a much deeper level, it speaks to the scope of our human experience — how parts of our lives can be broken while other parts can be elusive; how we can never give up searching for the things that make us whole.  And few know this better than the Jewish people.

After slavery and decades in the wilderness and with Moses gone, the future of the Israelites was in doubt.  But with Joshua as their guide, they pushed on to victory.  After the First Temple was destroyed, it seemed Jerusalem was lost.  But with courage and resolve, the Second Temple reestablished the Jewish presence.  After centuries of persecution and pogroms, the Shoah aimed to eliminate the entire Jewish people.  But the gates of the camps flew open, and there emerged the ultimate rebuke to hate and to ignorance — survivors would live and love again.

When the moment of Israel’s independence was met by aggression on all sides, it was unclear whether this nation would survive.  But with heroism and sacrifice, the State of Israel not only endured, but thrived.  And during six days in June and Yom Kippur one October, it seemed as though all you had built might be lost.  But when the guns fell silent it was clear — “the nation of Israel lives.”

As I said in my speech earlier today, this story — from slavery to salvation, of overcoming even the most overwhelming odds — is a message that’s inspired the world.  And that includes Jewish Americans but also African Americans, who have so often had to deal with their own challenges, but with whom you have stood shoulder to shoulder.

African Americans and Jewish Americans marched together at Selma and Montgomery, with rabbis carrying the Torah as they walked.  They boarded buses for freedom rides together.  They bled together.  They gave their lives together — Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner alongside  African American, James Chaney.

Because of their sacrifice, because of the struggle of generations in both our countries, we can come together tonight, in freedom and in security.  So if I can paraphrase the Psalm — they turned our mourning into dancing; they changed our sack cloths into robes of joy.

And this evening, I’d like to close with the words of two leaders who brought us some of this joy.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Poland and lost his mother and sisters to the Nazis.  He came to America.  He raised his voice for social justice.  He marched with Martin Luther King.  And he spoke of the State of Israel in words that could well describe the struggle for equality in America.  “Our very existence is a witness that man must live toward redemption,” he said, and “that history is not always made by man alone.”

Rabbi Joachim Prinz was born in Germany, expelled by the Nazis and found refuge in America, and he built support for the new State of Israel.  And on that August day in 1963, he joined Dr. King at the March on Washington.  And this is what Rabbi Prinz said to the crowd:

“In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor.  Neighbor is not a geographic concept.  It is a moral concept.  It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.”

President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, friends — our very existence, our presence here tonight, is a testament that all things are possible, even those things that, in moments of darkness and doubt, may seem elusive.  The stories of our peoples teach us to never stop searching for the things — the justice and the peace — that make us whole.  And so we go forward together, with confidence, we’ll know that while our countries may be separated by a great ocean, in the realm of the spirit we will always be neighbors and friends.

I very humbly accept this award, understanding that I’m accepting it on behalf of the American people, who are joined together with you.

May God bless you and may He watch over our two great nations.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
8:44 P.M. IST

Full Text Obama Presidency March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama & Israel President Shimon Peres’s Speeches at State Dinner

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President and President Peres of Israel at State Dinner

Source: WH, 3-21-13

President’s Residence
Jerusalem

8:15 P.M. IST

PRESIDENT PERES:  I think that’s the President’s remarks.  Mr. President, can I read your speech?  (Laughter.)  They are mistaken.  (Laughter.)

President Barack Obama, my dear friend, let me say first, Bravo.  Bravo, President.  (Applause.)

It is my great pleasure to welcome you tonight.  I was moved the way in which you spoke to the heart of our young Israelis.  Our youngsters, in time of need, are always willing to stand up and defend their country.  Today, you have seen how much the same young people long for peace.  How enthusiastic they were, how engaged they were, listening to the vision of peace, which you beautifully delivered and moved the heart.

Mr. President, this morning several rockets were shot from the Gaza Strip towards civilian targets in Israel, including Sderot that you have visited.  From here, in the name of all us, I want to convey our love to the inhabitants of the south around Gaza who carry this heavy burden courageously and continue to plow their land, plant their trees, raise their children.  It is an inspiration to each of us.  Today, the enemies of peace spoke in the only language they know — the language of terror.  I am convinced that together we shall defeat them.

Dear Barack, your visit here is a historic event.  We are so happy to receive you and your distinguished delegation.  I am very glad to see Secretary John Kerry — an old friend.  John, I know you are and I know you will be successful.  I’m not sure that the prophets have had speechwriters — (laughter) — but if they had, I imagine Isaiah would have said — but actually he has said on that occasion — and I’m quoting him, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation.” Well, you have to be satisfied with my language — I cannot speak like him.  (Laughter.)

It is my privilege to present you with our country’s highest honor — the Medal of Distinction.  This award speaks to you, to your tireless work to make Israel strong, to make peace possible. Your presidency has given the closest ties between Israel and the United States a new height, a sense of intimacy, a vision for the future.

The people of Israel are particularly moved by your unforgettable contribution to their security.  You are defending our skies — to you, revelation in the name of intelligence, which is the right way to preempt bloodshed.  The diplomatic and the military bonds between us have reached an unprecedented level.

When I visited you in Washington, I thought in my heart, America is so great and we are so small.  I learned that you don’t measure us by size, but by values.  Thank you.  When it comes to values, we are you, and you are us.  On occasions when we were alone you stood with us, so we were not alone.  We were alone together.  We shall never forget it.

During your previous visit to Israel, you asked me if I had any advice to offer.  Well, it’s not my nature to let questions go unanswered.  (Laughter.)  So just that while people say that the future belongs to the young, it is the present that really belongs to the young.  Leave the future to me.  I have time.  (Laughter and applause.)

I think I was right, because the moment you came into office, you immediately had to face daunting and demanding challenges day in, day out.  I prayed that you would meet them with wisdom and determination, without losing hope, without allowing others to lose hope.  The prayers were answered — after all, they came from Jerusalem and they came to us as a great message.  It is a tribute to your leadership, to the strength of your character, to your principles, that you have never surrendered to hopelessness.  You stood and stand firmly by your vision.  Your values serve your nation.  They serve our nation as well.

So I know that you will never stop to strive for a better world, as you said today in a good Hebrew — tikkun olam.  We have a rich heritage and a great dream.  As I look back, I feel that the Israel of today has exceeded the vision we had 65 years ago.  Reality has surpassed the dreams.  The United States of America helped us to make this possible.

Still the path to tomorrow may be fraught with obstacles.  I believe that we can overcome them by our determination and by your commitment.  I’m convinced that you will do whatever is necessary to free the world’s horizons and the skies of Jerusalem from the Iranian threat.  Iran denies the Shoah and calls for a new one.  Iran is building a nuclear bomb and denies it.  The Iranian regime is the greatest danger to world peace.  History has shown time and again that peace, prosperity and stable civil society cannot flourish when threats and belligerency abound.

Ladies and gentlemen, tonight the Iranian people are celebrating their New Year.  I wish them from the depths of my heart a happy holiday and a real freedom.

Israel will seize any opportunity for peace.  Being small, we have to maintain our qualitative edge.  I know that you responded and will respond to it.  The strength of Israel is its defense forces.  They afford us the ability to seek peace.  And what America has contributed to Israel’s security is the best guarantee to end the march of folly, the march of terror and bloodshed.

We watch with admiration the way you lead the United States of America, the way you have stayed true time and again to your bonds of friendship with us.  Your commitment and deeds speaks volumes about the principles that guides America.  To strive for freedom and democracy at home, but also all over the world, you send the boys to fight for the freedom of others.  What is uplifting is that the United States brought freedom not only to its own people, but never stops, and never will stop, to help other people to become free.

You represent democracy at its best.  You have deepened its meaning — namely that democracy is not just the right to be equal, but the equal right to be different.  Democracy is not just a free expression, but is self-expression as well.

You exemplify the spirit of democracy by striving for justice and equality and opportunity in the American society.  As the world has now become global and yet remains individual, and you offer those principles.  You have shown global responsibility and individual sensitivity.

On Monday night, Mr. President, we shall celebrate Passover, the Festival of Freedom, the Celebration of Spring.  The Celebration of Spring means our journey from the house of slaves to the home of the free that started more than 3,000 years ago. We remember it every year.  We are commended to feel as though each of us personally participated in that journey.  We shall not forget where we came from.  We shall remember always where we are headed, too, which is to make the Promised Land a land of promise, a land of freedom, justice and equality.

While reality calls for vigilance, Passover calls to remain believers.  Israel is an island in a stormy sea.  We have to make our island safe and we wish that the sea will become tranquil.  We converted our desert into a garden.  It was achieved by the talents of our people and the potential of science.  What we have done, Mr. President, can be done all over the Middle East, as you have rightly said tonight.  Israel is described as a start-up nation.  The Middle East can become a start-up region.

Dear President, you noted in your address today that peace is the greatest hope for the human being.  I share your vision.  Your call to reopen the peace process may pave the way for the implementation of the two-state solution agreed by all of us — as you said, a Jewish state, Israel; an Arab state, Palestine.

If I’m not wrong, next to you sits our Prime Minister who was just reelected.  He opened his address in the Knesset by reiterating his commitment to the two-state solution.  Dear friends, I have seen in my life I earned the right to believe that peace is attainable.  As you felt today, I know, this is the deep conviction of our people.  With our resolve and your support, Barack Obama, we shall win and it will happen.

Mr. President, I am privileged to bestow upon you the Medal of Distinction.  It was recommended by a committee of seven prominent Israeli citizens, headed by our former Chief of Justice Meir Shamgar, and includes our former President Yitzhak Navon.  It was my view and I was glad to accept their recommendation.  You inspired the world with your leadership.  Toda raba, Mr. President.  Toda from a grateful nation to a very great leader.

God bless America.  God bless Israel.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  President Peres; Prime Minister Netanyahu and First Lady Sara; distinguished guests and friends.  This is a extraordinary honor for me and I could not be more deeply moved. And I have to say, after the incredible welcome I’ve received over the past two days and the warmth of the Israeli people, the tribute from President Peres, the honor of this medal — I mean, as you say, dayenu.  ((Applause.)

Now, I’m told that the Talmud teaches that you shouldn’t pronounce all the praises of a person in their presence.  And, Mr. President, if I praised all the chapters of your remarkable life, then we would be here all night.  (Laughter.)  So let me simply say this about our gracious host.

Mr. President, the State of Israel has been the cause of your life — through bitter wars and fragile peace, through hardship and prosperity.  You’ve built her.  You’ve cared for her.  You’ve strengthened her.  You’ve nurtured the next generation who will inherit her.

Ben Gurion.  Meir.  Begin.  Rabin.  These giants have left us.  Only you are with us still — a founding father in our midst.  And we are so grateful for your vision, your friendship, but most of all, for your example, including the example of your extraordinary vitality.  Every time I see your President I ask him who his doctor is.  (Laughter.)  We all want to know the secret.

So, with gratitude for your life and your service, and as you prepare to celebrate your 90th birthday this summer — and since I’m starting to get pretty good at Hebrew — (laughter) — let me propose a toast — even though you’ve taken away my wine
— (laughter.)  Come on.  Bring another.

How are you?

SERVER:  Here you are, sir.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  A toast — ad me’ah ve’esrim.  L’chaim! (Applause.)  Mmm, that’s good wine.  (Laughter.)  Actually, we should probably get this out of the photograph.  All these people will say I’m having too much fun in Israel.  (Laughter.)

Just a few more words, Mr. President.  You mentioned that this medal is presented in recognition of progress toward the ideals of equality and opportunity and justice.  But I am mindful that I stand here tonight because of so many others, including the example and the sacrifices of the Jewish people.

In a few days, as we do at every Seder, we’ll break and hide a piece of matzoh.  It’s a great way to entertain the kids.  Malia and Sasha, even though they are getting older, they still enjoy it — and there are a lot of good places to hide it in the White House.  (Laughter.)  But on a much deeper level, it speaks to the scope of our human experience — how parts of our lives can be broken while other parts can be elusive; how we can never give up searching for the things that make us whole.  And few know this better than the Jewish people.

After slavery and decades in the wilderness and with Moses gone, the future of the Israelites was in doubt.  But with Joshua as their guide, they pushed on to victory.  After the First Temple was destroyed, it seemed Jerusalem was lost.  But with courage and resolve, the Second Temple reestablished the Jewish presence.  After centuries of persecution and pogroms, the Shoah aimed to eliminate the entire Jewish people.  But the gates of the camps flew open, and there emerged the ultimate rebuke to hate and to ignorance — survivors would live and love again.

When the moment of Israel’s independence was met by aggression on all sides, it was unclear whether this nation would survive.  But with heroism and sacrifice, the State of Israel not only endured, but thrived.  And during six days in June and Yom Kippur one October, it seemed as though all you had built might be lost.  But when the guns fell silent it was clear — “the nation of Israel lives.”

As I said in my speech earlier today, this story — from slavery to salvation, of overcoming even the most overwhelming odds — is a message that’s inspired the world.  And that includes Jewish Americans but also African Americans, who have so often had to deal with their own challenges, but with whom you have stood shoulder to shoulder.

African Americans and Jewish Americans marched together at Selma and Montgomery, with rabbis carrying the Torah as they walked.  They boarded buses for freedom rides together.  They bled together.  They gave their lives together — Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner alongside  African American, James Chaney.

Because of their sacrifice, because of the struggle of generations in both our countries, we can come together tonight, in freedom and in security.  So if I can paraphrase the Psalm — they turned our mourning into dancing; they changed our sack cloths into robes of joy.

And this evening, I’d like to close with the words of two leaders who brought us some of this joy.  Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was born in Poland and lost his mother and sisters to the Nazis.  He came to America.  He raised his voice for social justice.  He marched with Martin Luther King.  And he spoke of the State of Israel in words that could well describe the struggle for equality in America.  “Our very existence is a witness that man must live toward redemption,” he said, and “that history is not always made by man alone.”

Rabbi Joachim Prinz was born in Germany, expelled by the Nazis and found refuge in America, and he built support for the new State of Israel.  And on that August day in 1963, he joined Dr. King at the March on Washington.  And this is what Rabbi Prinz said to the crowd:

“In the realm of the spirit, our fathers taught us thousands of years ago that when God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor.  Neighbor is not a geographic concept.  It is a moral concept.  It means our collective responsibility for the preservation of man’s dignity and integrity.”

President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu, friends — our very existence, our presence here tonight, is a testament that all things are possible, even those things that, in moments of darkness and doubt, may seem elusive.  The stories of our peoples teach us to never stop searching for the things — the justice and the peace — that make us whole.  And so we go forward together, with confidence, we’ll know that while our countries may be separated by a great ocean, in the realm of the spirit we will always be neighbors and friends.

I very humbly accept this award, understanding that I’m accepting it on behalf of the American people, who are joined together with you.

May God bless you and may He watch over our two great nations.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
8:44 P.M. IST

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama in Israel Speech pleads for renewed Mideast peace talks

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama pleads for renewed Mideast peace talks

Source: Washington Post, 3-21-13

President Obama made an impassioned appeal Thursday for renewed peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, urging each side to compromise on key issues so as to sideline extremists who “thrive on conflict.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama Lays Out Case for Israel to Revive Peace Talks in Israel Speech

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Obama Lays Out Case for Israel to Revive Peace Talks

Source: NYT, 3-21-13

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

Laying out his case for a future Israel at peace with the Palestinians, President Obama delivered an enthusiastically welcomed speech on Thursday before an audience of youthful Israelis in Jerusalem, assuring them of America’s strong support but asking them to empathize with their Israeli-occupied neighbors and “look at the world through their eyes.”…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the People of Israel at the Jerusalem International Convention Center

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks of President Barack Obama To the People of Israel

Source: WH, 3-21-13 

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Photo Source: Haaretz

Jerusalem International Convention Center

Jerusalem

4:37 P.M. IST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. Well, it is a great honor to be with you here in Jerusalem, and I’m so grateful for the welcome that I’ve received from the people of Israel.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  I bring with me the support of the American people — (applause) — and the friendship that binds us together.  (Applause.)

Over the last two days, I’ve reaffirmed the bonds between our countries with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Peres. I’ve borne witness to the ancient history of the Jewish people at the Shrine of the Book, and I’ve seen Israel’s shining future in your scientists and your entrepreneurs.  This is a nation of museums and patents, timeless holy sites and ground-breaking innovation.  Only in Israel could you see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the place where the technology on board the Mars Rover originated at the same time.  (Applause.)

But what I’ve most looked forward to is the ability to speak directly to you, the Israeli people — especially so many young people who are here today — (applause) — to talk about the history that brought us here today, and the future that you will make in the years to come.

Now, I know that in Israel’s vibrant democracy, every word, every gesture is carefully scrutinized.  (Laughter.)  But I want to clear something up just so you know — any drama between me and my friend, Bibi, over the years was just a plot to create material for Eretz Nehederet.  (Applause.)  That’s the only thing that was going on.  We just wanted to make sure the writers had good material.  (Laughter.)

I also know that I come to Israel on the eve of a sacred holiday — the celebration of Passover.  And that is where I would like to begin today.

Just a few days from now, Jews here in Israel and around the world will sit with family and friends at the Seder table, and celebrate with songs, wine and symbolic foods.  After enjoying Seders with family and friends in Chicago and on the campaign trail, I’m proud that I’ve now brought this tradition into the White House.  (Applause.)  I did so because I wanted my daughters to experience the Haggadah, and the story at the center of Passover that makes this time of year so powerful.

It’s a story of centuries of slavery, and years of wandering in the desert; a story of perseverance amidst persecution, and faith in God and the Torah.  It’s a story about finding freedom in your own land.  And for the Jewish people, this story is central to who you’ve become.  But it’s also a story that holds within it the universal human experience, with all of its suffering, but also all of its salvation.

It’s a part of the three great religions — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — that trace their origins to Abraham, and see Jerusalem as sacred.  And it’s a story that’s inspired communities across the globe, including me and my fellow Americans.

In the United States — a nation made up of people who crossed oceans to start anew — we’re naturally drawn to the idea of finding freedom in our land.  To African Americans, the story of the Exodus was perhaps the central story, the most powerful image about emerging from the grip of bondage to reach for liberty and human dignity — a tale that was carried from slavery through the Civil Rights Movement into today.

For generations, this promise helped people weather poverty and persecution, while holding on to the hope that a better day was on the horizon.  For me, personally, growing up in far-flung parts of the world and without firm roots, the story spoke to a yearning within every human being for a home.  (Applause.)

Of course, even as we draw strength from the story of God’s will and His gift of freedom expressed on Passover, we also know that here on Earth we must bear our responsibilities in an imperfect world.  That means accepting our measure of sacrifice and struggle, just like previous generations.  It means us working through generation after generation on behalf of that ideal of freedom.

As Dr. Martin Luther King said on the day before he was killed, “I may not get there with you.  But I want you to know that we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”  (Applause.)  So just as Joshua carried on after Moses, the work goes on for all of you, the Joshua Generation, for justice and dignity; for opportunity and freedom.

For the Jewish people, the journey to the promise of the State of Israel wound through countless generations.  It involved centuries of suffering and exile, prejudice and pogroms and even genocide.  Through it all, the Jewish people sustained their unique identity and traditions, as well as a longing to return home.  And while Jews achieved extraordinary success in many parts of the world, the dream of true freedom finally found its full expression in the Zionist idea — to be a free people in your homeland.  That’s why I believe that Israel is rooted not just in history and tradition, but also in a simple and profound idea — the idea that people deserve to be free in a land of their own.  (Applause.)

Over the last 65 years, when Israel has been at its best, Israelis have demonstrated that responsibility does not end when you reach the promised land, it only begins.  And so Israel has been a refuge for the diaspora — welcoming Jews from Europe, from the former Soviet Union, from Ethiopia, from North Africa.  (Applause.)

Israel has built a prosperous nation — through kibbutzeem that made the desert bloom, business that broadened the middle class, innovators who reached new frontiers, from the smallest microchip to the orbits of space.  Israel has established a thriving democracy, with a spirited civil society and proud political parties, and a tireless free press, and a lively public debate -– “lively” may even be an understatement.  (Applause.)

And Israel has achieved all this even as it’s overcome relentless threats to its security — through the courage of the Israel Defense Forces, and the citizenry that is so resilient in the face of terror.

This is the story of Israel.  This is the work that has brought the dreams of so many generations to life.  And every step of the way, Israel has built unbreakable bonds of friendship with my country, the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Those ties began only 11 minutes after Israeli independence, when the United States was the first nation to recognize the State of Israel.  (Applause.)  As President Truman said in explaining his decision to recognize Israel, he said, “I believe it has a glorious future before it not just as another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”  And since then, we’ve built a friendship that advances our shared interests.

Together, we share a commitment to security for our citizens and the stability of the Middle East and North Africa.  Together, we share a focus on advancing economic growth around the globe, and strengthening the middle class within our own countries.  Together, we share a stake in the success of democracy.

But the source of our friendship extends beyond mere interests, just as it has transcended political parties and individual leaders.  America is a nation of immigrants.  America is strengthened by diversity.  America is enriched by faith.  We are governed not simply by men and women, but by laws.  We’re fueled by entrepreneurship and innovation, and we are defined by a democratic discourse that allows each generation to reimagine and renew our union once more.  So in Israel, we see values that we share, even as we recognize what makes us different.  That is an essential part of our bond.

Now, I stand here today mindful that for both our nations, these are some complicated times.  We have difficult issues to work through within our own countries, and we face dangers and upheaval around the world.  And when I look at young people within the United States, I think about the choices that they must make in their lives to define who we’ll be as a nation in this 21st century, particularly as we emerge from two wars and the worst recession since the Great Depression.  But part of the reason I like talking to young people is because no matter how great the challenges are, their idealism, their energy, their ambition always gives me hope.  (Applause.)

And I see the same spirit in the young people here today.  (Applause.)  I believe that you will shape our future.  And given the ties between our countries, I believe your future is bound to ours.  (Audience interruption.)

No, no — this is part of the lively debate that we talked about.  (Applause.)  This is good.  You know, I have to say we actually arranged for that, because it made me feel at home.  (Laughter.)  I wouldn’t feel comfortable if I didn’t have at least one heckler.  (Laughter.)

I’d like to focus on how we — and when I say “we,” in particular young people — can work together to make progress in three areas that will define our times — security, peace and prosperity.  (Applause.)

Let me begin with security.  I’m proud that the security relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger.  Never.  (Applause.)  More exercises between our militaries; more exchanges among our political and military and intelligence officials than ever before; the largest program to date to help you retain your qualitative military edge.  These are the facts.  These aren’t my opinions, these are facts.  But, to me, this is not simply measured on a balance sheet.  I know that here, in Israel, security is something personal.

Here’s what I think about when I consider these issues.  When I consider Israel’s security, I think about children like Osher Twito, who I met in Sderot — (applause) — children the same age as my own daughters who went to bed at night fearful that a rocket would land in their bedroom simply because of who they are and where they live.  (Applause.)

That reality is why we’ve invested in the Iron Dome system to save countless lives — because those children deserve to sleep better at night.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’ve made it clear, time and again, that Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and we have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself.  (Applause.)  And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist. (Applause.)

When I think about Israel’s security, I think about five Israelis who boarded a bus in Bulgaria, who were blown up because of where they came from; robbed of the ability to live, and love, and raise families.  That’s why every country that values justice should call Hizbollah what it truly is — a terrorist organization.  (Applause.)  Because the world cannot tolerate an organization that murders innocent civilians, stockpiles rockets to shoot at cities, and supports the massacre of men and women and children in Syria right now.  (Applause.)

The fact that Hizbollah’s ally — the Assad regime — has stockpiles of chemical weapons only heightens the urgency.  We will continue to cooperate closely to guard against that danger. I’ve made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders:  We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists.  The world is watching; we will hold you accountable. (Applause.)

The Syrian people have the right to be freed from the grip of a dictator who would rather kill his own people than relinquish power.  (Applause.)  Assad must go so that Syria’s future can begin.  Because true stability in Syria depends upon establishing a government that is responsible to its people — one that protects all communities within its borders, while making peace with countries beyond them.

These are the things I think about when I think about Israel’s security.  When I consider Israel’s security, I also think about a people who have a living memory of the Holocaust, faced with the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iranian government that has called for Israel’s destruction.  It’s no wonder Israelis view this as an existential threat.  But this is not simply a challenge for Israel — it is a danger for the entire world, including the United States.  (Applause.)  A nuclear-armed Iran would raise the risk of nuclear terrorism.  It would undermine the non-proliferation regime.  It would spark an arms race in a volatile region.  And it would embolden a government that has shown no respect for the rights of its own people or the responsibilities of nations.

That’s why America has built a coalition to increase the cost to Iran of failing to meet their obligations.  The Iranian government is now under more pressure than ever before, and that pressure is increasing.  It is isolated.  Its economy is in dire straits.  Its leadership is divided.  And its position — in the region, and the world — has only grown weaker.  (Applause.)

I do believe that all of us have an interest in resolving this issue peacefully.  (Applause.)  Strong and principled diplomacy is the best way to ensure that the Iranian government forsakes nuclear weapons.  (Applause.)  Peace is far more preferable to war.  And the inevitable costs, the unintended consequences that would come with war means that we have to do everything we can to try to resolve this diplomatically.  Because of the cooperation between our governments, we know that there remains time to pursue a diplomatic resolution.  That’s what America will do, with clear eyes — working with a world that’s united, and with the sense of urgency that’s required.

But Iran must know this time is not unlimited.  And I’ve made the position of the United States of America clear:  Iran must not get a nuclear weapon.  This is not a danger that can be contained, and as President, I’ve said all options are on the table for achieving our objectives.  America will do what we must to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.  (Applause.)

For young Israelis, I know that these issues of security are rooted in an experience that is even more fundamental than the pressing threat of the day.  You live in a neighborhood where many of your neighbors have rejected the right of your nation to exist.  Your grandparents had to risk their lives and all that they had to make a place for themselves in this world.  Your parents lived through war after war to ensure the survival of the Jewish state.  Your children grow up knowing that people they’ve never met may hate them because of who they are, in a region that is full of turmoil and changing underneath your feet.

So that’s what I think about when Israel is faced with these challenges –- that sense of an Israel that is surrounded by many in this region who still reject it, and many in the world who refuse to accept it.  And that’s why the security of the Jewish people in Israel is so important.  It cannot be taken for granted.

But make no mistake — those who adhere to the ideology of rejecting Israel’s right to exist, they might as well reject the earth beneath them or the sky above, because Israel is not going anywhere.  (Applause.)  And today, I want to tell you — particularly the young people — so that there’s no mistake here, so long as there is a United States of America — Atem lo levad. You are not alone.  (Applause.)

The question is what kind of future Israel will look forward to.  Israel is not going anywhere — but especially for the young people in this audience, the question is what does its future hold?  And that brings me to the subject of peace.  (Applause.)

I know Israel has taken risks for peace.  Brave leaders — Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin — reached treaties with two of your neighbors.  You made credible proposals to the Palestinians at Annapolis.  You withdrew from Gaza and Lebanon, and then faced terror and rockets.  Across the region, you’ve extended a hand of friendship and all too often you’ve been confronted with rejection and, in some cases, the ugly reality of anti-Semitism. So I believe that the Israeli people do want peace, and I also understand why too many Israelis — maybe an increasing number, maybe a lot of young people here today — are skeptical that it can be achieved.

But today, Israel is at a crossroads.  It can be tempting to put aside the frustrations and sacrifices that come with the pursuit of peace, particularly when Iron Dome repels rockets, barriers keep out suicide bombers.  There’s so many other pressing issues that demand your attention.  And I know that only Israelis can make the fundamental decisions about your country’s future.  (Applause.)  I recognize that.

I also know, by the way, that not everyone in this hall will agree with what I have to say about peace.  I recognize that there are those who are not simply skeptical about peace, but question its underlying premise, have a different vision for Israel’s future.  And that’s part of a democracy.  That’s part of the discourse between our two countries.  I recognize that.  But I also believe it’s important to be open and honest, especially with your friends.  I also believe that.  (Applause.)

Politically, given the strong bipartisan support for Israel in America, the easiest thing for me to do would be to put this issue aside — just express unconditional support for whatever Israel decides to do — that would be the easiest political path. But I want you to know that I speak to you as a friend who is deeply concerned and committed to your future, and I ask you to consider three points.

First, peace is necessary.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  I believe that peace is the only path to true security.  (Applause.)  You have the opportunity to be the generation that permanently secures the Zionist dream, or you can face a growing challenge to its future.  Given the demographics west of the Jordan River, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.  (Applause.)  That is true.

There are other factors involved.  Given the frustration in the international community about this conflict, Israel needs to reverse an undertow of isolation.  And given the march of technology, the only way to truly protect the Israeli people over the long term is through the absence of war.  Because no wall is high enough and no Iron Dome is strong enough or perfect enough to stop every enemy that is intent on doing so from inflicting harm.  (Applause.)

And this truth is more pronounced given the changes sweeping the Arab world.  I understand that with the uncertainty in the region — people in the streets, changes in leadership, the rise of non-secular parties in politics — it’s tempting to turn inward, because the situation outside of Israel seems so chaotic. But this is precisely the time to respond to the wave of revolution with a resolve and commitment for peace.  (Applause.) Because as more governments respond to popular will, the days when Israel could seek peace simply with a handful of autocratic leaders, those days are over.  Peace will have to be made among peoples, not just governments.  (Applause.)

No one — no single step can change overnight what lies in the hearts and minds of millions.  No single step is going to erase years of history and propaganda.  But progress with the Palestinians is a powerful way to begin, while sidelining extremists who thrive on conflict and thrive on division.  It would make a difference.  (Applause.)

So peace is necessary.  But peace is also just.  Peace is also just.  There is no question that Israel has faced Palestinian factions who turned to terror, leaders who missed historic opportunities.  That is all true.  And that’s why security must be at the center of any agreement.  And there is no question that the only path to peace is through negotiations — which is why, despite the criticism we’ve received, the United States will oppose unilateral efforts to bypass negotiations through the United Nations.  It has to be done by the parties.  (Applause.)  But the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination, their right to justice, must also be recognized.  (Applause.)

Put yourself in their shoes.  Look at the world through their eyes.  It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of their own.  (Applause.)  Living their entire lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements not just of those young people but their parents, their grandparents, every single day.  It’s not just when settler violence against Palestinians goes unpunished.  (Applause.)  It’s not right to prevent Palestinians from farming their lands; or restricting a student’s ability to move around the West Bank; or displace Palestinian families from their homes.  (Applause.)  Neither occupation nor expulsion is the answer.  (Applause.)  Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people in their own land.  (Applause.)

I’m going off script here for a second, but before I came here, I met with a group of young Palestinians from the age of 15 to 22.  And talking to them, they weren’t that different from my daughters.  They weren’t that different from your daughters or sons.  I honestly believe that if any Israeli parent sat down with those kids, they’d say, I want these kids to succeed; I want them to prosper.  (Applause.)  I want them to have opportunities just like my kids do.  I believe that’s what Israeli parents would want for these kids if they had a chance to listen to them and talk to them.  (Applause.)  I believe that.

Now, only you can determine what kind of democracy you will have.  But remember that as you make these decisions, you will define not simply the future of your relationship with the Palestinians — you will define the future of Israel as well.  (Applause.)

As Ariel Sharon said — I’m quoting him — “It is impossible to have a Jewish democratic state, at the same time to control all of Eretz Israel.  If we insist on fulfilling the dream in its entirety, we are liable to lose it all.”  (Applause.)  Or, from a different perspective, I think of what the novelist David Grossman said shortly after losing his son, as he described the necessity of peace — “A peace of no choice” he said, “must be approached with the same determination and creativity as one approaches a war of no choice.”  (Applause.)

Now, Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with anyone who is dedicated to its destruction.  (Applause.)  But while I know you have had differences with the Palestinian Authority, I genuinely believe that you do have a true partner in President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad.  (Applause.)  I believe that.  And they have a track record to prove it.  Over the last few years, they have built institutions and maintained security on the West Bank in ways that few could have imagined just a few years ago.  So many Palestinians — including young people — have rejected violence as a means of achieving their aspirations.

There is an opportunity there, there’s a window — which brings me to my third point:  Peace is possible.  It is possible. (Applause.)  I’m not saying it’s guaranteed.  I can’t even say that it is more likely than not.  But it is possible.  I know it doesn’t seem that way.  There are always going to be reasons to avoid risk.  There are costs for failure.  There will always be extremists who provide an excuse not to act.

I know there must be something exhausting about endless talks about talks, and daily controversies, and just the grinding status quo.  And I’m sure there’s a temptation just to say, “Ah, enough.  Let me focus on my small corner of the world and my family and my job and what I can control.”  But it’s possible.

Negotiations will be necessary, but there’s little secret about where they must lead — two states for two peoples.  Two states for two peoples.  (Applause.)

There will be differences about how to get there.  There are going to be hard choices along the way.  Arab states must adapt to a world that has changed.  The days when they could condemn Israel to distract their people from a lack of opportunity, or government corruption or mismanagement — those days need to be over.  (Applause.)  Now is the time for the Arab world to take steps toward normalizing relations with Israel.  (Applause.)

Meanwhile, Palestinians must recognize that Israel will be a Jewish state and that Israelis have the right to insist upon their security.  (Applause.)  Israelis must recognize that continued settlement activity is counterproductive to the cause of peace, and that an independent Palestine must be viable with real borders that have to be drawn.  (Applause.)

I’ve suggested principles on territory and security that I believe can be the basis for these talks.  But for the moment, put aside the plans and the process.  I ask you, instead, to think about what can be done to build trust between people.

Four years ago, I stood in Cairo in front of an audience of young people — politically, religiously, they must seem a world away.  But the things they want, they’re not so different from what the young people here want.  They want the ability to make their own decisions and to get an education, get a good job; to worship God in their own way; to get married; to raise a family. The same is true of those young Palestinians that I met with this morning.  The same is true for young Palestinians who yearn for a better life in Gaza.

That’s where peace begins — not just in the plans of leaders, but in the hearts of people.  Not just in some carefully designed process, but in the daily connections — that sense of empathy that takes place among those who live together in this land and in this sacred city of Jerusalem.  (Applause.)

And let me say this as a politician — I can promise you this, political leaders will never take risks if the people do not push them to take some risks.  You must create the change that you want to see.  (Applause.)  Ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.

I know this is possible.  Look to the bridges being built in business and civil society by some of you here today.  Look at the young people who’ve not yet learned a reason to mistrust, or those young people who’ve learned to overcome a legacy of mistrust that they inherited from their parents, because they simply recognize that we hold more hopes in common than fears that drive us apart.  Your voices must be louder than those who would drown out hope.  Your hopes must light the way forward.

Look to a future in which Jews and Muslims and Christians can all live in peace and greater prosperity in this Holy Land.  (Applause.)  Believe in that.  And most of all, look to the future that you want for your own children — a future in which a Jewish, democratic, vibrant state is protected and accepted for this time and for all time.  (Applause.)

There will be many who say this change is not possible, but remember this — Israel is the most powerful country in this region.  Israel has the unshakeable support of the most powerful country in the world.  (Applause.)  Israel is not going anywhere. Israel has the wisdom to see the world as it is, but — this is in your nature — Israel also has the courage to see the world as it should be.  (Applause.)

Ben Gurion once said, “In Israel, in order to be a realist you must believe in miracles.”  Sometimes, the greatest miracle is recognizing that the world can change.  That’s a lesson that the world has learned from the Jewish people.

And that brings me to the final area that I’ll focus on: prosperity, and Israel’s broader role in the world.  I know that all the talk about security and peace can sometimes seem to dominate the headlines, but that’s not where people live.  And every day, even amidst the threats that you face, Israelis are defining themselves by the opportunities that you’re creating.

Through talent and hard work, Israelis have put this small country at the forefront of the global economy.

Israelis understand the value of education and have produced 10 Nobel laureates.  (Applause.)  Israelis understand the power of invention, and your universities educate engineers and inventors.  And that spirit has led to economic growth and human progress — solar power and electric cars, bandages and prosthetic limbs that save lives, stem cell research and new drugs that treat disease, cell phones and computer technology that changed the way people around the world live.

So if people want to see the future of the world economy, they should look at Tel Aviv, home to hundreds of start-ups and research centers.  (Applause.)  Israelis are so active on social media that every day seemed to bring a different Facebook campaign about where I should give this speech.  (Laughter and applause.)

That innovation is just as important to the relationship between the United States and Israel as our security cooperation. Our first free trade agreement in the world was reached with Israel, nearly three decades ago.  (Applause.)  Today the trade between our two countries is at $40 billion every year.  (Applause.)  More importantly, that partnership is creating new products and medical treatments; it’s pushing new frontiers of science and exploration.

That’s the kind of relationship that Israel should have — and could have — with every country in the world.  Already, we see how that innovation could reshape this region.  There’s a program here in Jerusalem that brings together young Israelis and Palestinians to learn vital skills in technology and business.  An Israeli and Palestinian have started a venture capital fund to finance Palestinian start-ups.  Over 100 high-tech companies have found a home on the West Bank — which speaks to the talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the Palestinian people.

One of the great ironies of what’s happening in the broader region is that so much of what people are yearning for — education, entrepreneurship, the ability to start a business without paying a bribe, the ability to connect to the global economy — those are things that can be found here in Israel. This should be a hub for thriving regional trade, and an engine for opportunity.  (Applause.)

Israel is already a center for innovation that helps power the global economy.  And I believe that all of that potential for prosperity can be enhanced with greater security, enhanced with lasting peace.  (Applause.)

Here, in this small strip of land that has been the center of so much of the world’s history, so much triumph and so much tragedy, Israelis have built something that few could have imagined 65 years ago.  Tomorrow, I will pay tribute to that history — at the grave of Herzl, a man who had the foresight to see the future of the Jewish people had to be reconnected to their past; at the grave of Rabin, who understood that Israel’s victories in war had to be followed by the battles for peace; at Yad Vashem, where the world is reminded of the cloud of evil that can descend on the Jewish people and all of humanity if we ever fail to be vigilant.

We bear all that history on our shoulders.  We carry all that history in our hearts.  Today, as we face the twilight of Israel’s founding generation, you — the young people of Israel

— must now claim its future.  It falls to you to write the next chapter in the great story of this great nation.

And as the President of a country that you can count on as your greatest friend — (applause) — I am confident that you can help us find the promise in the days that lie ahead.  And as a man who’s been inspired in my own life by that timeless calling within the Jewish experience — tikkun olam — (applause) — I am hopeful that we can draw upon what’s best in ourselves to meet the challenges that will come; to win the battles for peace in the wake of so much war; and to do the work of repairing this world.  (Applause.)  That’s your job.  That’s my job.  That’s the task of all of us.

May God bless you.  May God bless Israel.  May God bless the United States of America.  Toda raba.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END

5:27 P.M. IST

Political Headlines March 21, 2013: President Barack Obama Faces Hecklers, Gets Standing Ovation for Israel Speech in Jerusalem

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

President Obama Faces Hecklers, Gets Standing Ovation in Jerusalem

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-21-13

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking to students in Jerusalem, President Obama reaffirmed the friendship between the United States and Israel. During his speech, which highlighted the “vibrant democracy” and history of Israel, the president jokes about being interrupted by hecklers….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 20, 2013: In Israel, President Barack Obama Vows to Prevent Nuclear Iran

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

In Israel, Obama Vows to Prevent Nuclear Iran

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-20-13

Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images

Seeking to reassure the United States’ primary ally in the Middle East, President Obama Wednesday told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that his administration remains committed to doing “what is necessary” to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

“We do not have a policy of containment when it comes to a nuclear Iran. Our policy is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon,” Obama told reporters at a joint press conference after a series of closed-door meetings with Israeli leaders….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 20, 2013: President Barack Obama & President Shimon Peres’ Speeches After Meeting at President’s Residence in Jerusalem Transcript

POLITICAL BUZZ

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by President Obama and President Peres After Meeting

Source: WH, 3-20-13 

President’s Residence
Jerusalem

5:10 P.M. IST

PRESIDENT PERES:  President Obama, it is a great privilege for me and for the people of Israel to host you here in Jerusalem.

It was a real pleasure to sit with a true friend — very knowledgeable, fortunately — and sit candidly and discuss issues openly and freely.

After the meeting we just had, I have all confidence that your vision can transform the Middle East.  Your vision is achievable.  You arrived here already with an impressive record of answering our needs, particularly — and unforgettably — in the domain of security.  I want to thank you personally, dear friend, for the long days and for many long, sleepless nights — you know about them — which you spend caring for our country and for our future.

We live in an age that is both global and domestic, inseparably.  Interest may divide people; vision may unite them. There is common vision uniting us to confront the dangers, to bring peace closer as soon as possible.  The greatest danger is a nuclear Iran — so you said, so you do.  We trust your policy, which calls to, first, by non-military — to fight by non-military means with a clear statement that other options remain on the table.  You made it clear that your intention is not to contain but to prevent.

We are trying together to start negotiations with the Palestinians.  We already agreed that the goal is a two states for the two people solution.  There is no better one, or more achievable one.  We consider that the President of the Palestinian Authority, Abu Mazen, is our partner in that effort to stop terror and bring peace.

Hamas remains a terror organization that targets innocent people.  On our northern border, Iran’s proxy, Hezbollah, continues to stockpile arms and threaten our civilians while they target innocent people across the world.  Hezbollah is destroying Lebanon and supporting the brutal massacre of the Syrian people by President Assad.  Fortunately, the Syrian nuclear capacity was destroyed.  But unfortunately, thousands of chemical weapons remain.  We cannot allow those weapons to fall in the terrorists’ hands.  It could lead to an epic tragedy.

There is an attempt to bring spring to the Arab world.  It is an Arab choice.  It is an Arab initiative.  It may bring peace to the region, freedom to the people, economic growth to the Arab states.  If realized, it can lead to a better tomorrow.  We pray it will become a reality.

I really believe the vision is within skeptics and those who believe in peace.  Your voice will encourage belief.  You came to us with a clear message that no one should let skepticism win the day — a vision that states clearly that peace is not only a wish, but a possibility.  I fully support your call.  There is no other way to make the future better.  There is no better leader to make it possible.

Your visit is a historic step in that direction.  We shall journey with you all the way.  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Thank you so much.

Well, thank you, President Peres, for your very generous words and your warm welcome.  It is wonderful to be here once again.  I first visited you when I was still a senator and had the opportunity to visit the lovely garden, and for me to be able to bring a tree from the United States that will find a home in that garden I think is symbolic of not only the friendship between our two nations, but between the two of us personally.

Mr. President, you once remarked that a prime minister’s job is to rule, a president’s job is to charm.  Well, as with all our visits together, I have once again succumbed to your charms and I’m grateful to your hospitality.

It is wonderful to be back in Jerusalem, the Eternal City.  And I’m pleased to begin my visit with a son of Israel who’s devoted his life to keeping Israel strong and sustaining the bonds between our two nations.  President Peres knows that this is a work of generations.  Just as he joined the struggle for Israeli independence in his early 20s, he’s always looking ahead, connecting with young people.  And I’m especially grateful for the time he allowed me to share with those extraordinary Israeli boys and girls.

Their dreams are much the same as children everywhere.  In another sense, though, their lives reflect the difficult realities that Israelis face every single day.  They want to be safe.  They want to be free from rockets that hit their homes or their schools.  They want a world where science and technology is created to build and not destroy.  They want to live in peace, free from terror and threats that are so often directed at the Israeli people.  That’s the future that they deserve.  That’s the vision that is shared by both our nations.  And that is Shimon Peres’s life work.

And, Mr. President, Michelle and I have such fond memories of your visit to the White House last spring, when I was honored to present you with America’s highest civilian honor — our Medal of Freedom.  And that medal was a tribute to your extraordinary life, in which you have held virtually every position in the Israeli government.

So today was another opportunity for me to benefit from the President’s perspective on a whole range of topics — from the historic changes that are taking place across the region to the perils of a nuclear-armed Iran, to the imperatives of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, to the promise of our digital age.

And I should note that one of the advantages of talking to President Peres is not only does he have astonishing vision, but he’s also a pretty practical-minded politician and consistently has good advice in terms of how we can approach many of these problems.

I reaffirmed to President Peres, as I will throughout my visit, that in this work, the State of Israel will have no greater friend than the United States.  And the work we do in our time will make it more likely that the children that we saw today alongside children from throughout the region have the opportunity for security and peace and prosperity.

This obligation to future generations I think was well symbolized by the tree planting that we started our meeting with. The Talmud recounts the story of Honi, the miracle worker, who saw a man planting a carob tree.  And he asked the man, how long before this tree yields fruit?  To which the man responded, “Seventy years.”  And so Honi asked, “Are you sure you’ll be alive in another 70 years to see it?”  And the man replied, “When I came into the world, I found carob trees.  As my forefathers planted for me, so will I plant for my children.”

President Peres I think understands that story well.  And so we want to all thank you for all the seeds you’ve planted — the seeds of progress, the seeds of security, the seeds of peace —  all the seeds that have helped not only Israel grow but also the relationship between our two nations grow.  And I believe that if we tend to them, if we nurture them, they will yield fruit in every hill and valley of this land, not only for the children we met today but for Israelis, for Palestinians, for Arabs across the region.  That’s not only good for the children of this region, but it’s good for my children and the children of America.

I deeply believe that.  And I couldn’t ask for a more wise or more thoughtful partner in that process.  I’m very grateful for you hospitality, and I look forward to our continued work in the future.

END
5:19 P.M. IST

Full Text Obama Presidency June 13, 2012: President Barack Obama Honors Israeli President Shimon Peres with US Presidential Medal of Freedom — Speech Transcript

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of History Musings. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University. Ms. Goodman has also contributed the overviews, and chronologies in History of American Presidential Elections, 1789-2008, 4th edition, edited by Gil Troy, Fred L. Israel, and Arthur Meier Schlesinger published by Facts on File, Inc. in  2011.


U.S. President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Israeli President Shimon Peres in the East Room of the White House in Washington, June 13, 2012.

IN FOCUS: US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA HONORS ISRAELI PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES WITH US PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM

Obama: Peres is a True Founding Father:
President Obama gives the Medal of Freedom to President Shimon Peres, says Peres “is nothing short of extraordinary.”
U.S. President Barack Obama gave the Medal of Freedom to Israeli President Shimon Peres in a special ceremony at the White House on Wednesday evening (Washington time).
In remarks he made prior to handing Peres the medal, Obama described Israel as “one of our strongest allies and one of our closest friends.” He said that Peres “is nothing short of extraordinary.”
Obama noted that Peres joined the Haganah Jewish defense organization in 1947, when he was in his 20s, and that he ran for President at the age of 83.
“Tonight we have the rare privilege to be in the presence of a true founding father,” said Obama, who noted that Peres “teaches us to never settle for the world as it is. We have a vision for the world as it ought to be and we have to strive for it.”
He stressed that “the security of the State of Israel is non-negotiable and the bonds between us are unbreakable” and added that it is a high honor to bestow the Medal of Freedom on Peres, the “fighter for peace.”
After Obama handed Peres the medal, Peres himself spoke, telling Obama, “I was profoundly moved by your decision to award me the Presidential Medal of Freedom. To receive it from you is a privilege that I will cherish for the rest of life. It’s a testament to the historic friendship between our two nations.”
He added, “I receive this honor on behalf of the people of Israel. They are the true recipients of this honor.”… – Israel National News, 6-13-12

  • Peres calls for renewed peace talks in medal ceremony: Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, Israeli President Shimon Peres called for a renewal of peace talks with the Palestinians.
    “Israel and the Palestinians are ripe today to restart” peace talks, Peres said at the White House ceremony on Wednesday. “A firm basis already exists. A solution of two national states: A Jewish state – Israel. An Arab state – Palestine. The Palestinians are our closest neighbors. I believe they may become our closest friends.”
    Peace talks have been stalled since 2010, with the Palestinians demanding a freeze of settlement building in the West Bank, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisting on no preconditions.
    Peres, addressing about 140 dignitaries in the White House East Room, also thanked Obama for pressuring Iran to end its suspected nuclear weapons program…. – JTA, 6-13-12
  • Israeli President Peres to Obama: ‘We support you’ on Iran: President Barack Obama formally bestowed the nation’s highest civilian honor – the Presidential Medal of Freedom — on visiting Israeli President Shimon Peres…. – ABC News, 6-13-12
  • Obama Awards Peres Medal of Freedom: The White House – It was the latest of many visits Shimon Peres has made to the White House over the decades, but a highly symbolic one for a veteran Israeli leader whose career spans seven decades and whose views about the Middle East have been…. – Voice of America, 6-13-12
  • Obama hails Shimon Peres while giving Medal of Freedom to longtime Israeli leader: President Barack Obama presented Israeli President Shimon Peres with the Medal of Freedom on Wednesday, calling him the essence of Israel itself and a man who earned his place in history long ago. Obama said Peres, who served twice as…. – WaPo, 6-13-12
  • Why is Israeli President Shimon Peres getting the US Medal of Freedom?: While it doesn’t happen every year, it’s not exactly rare for a foreign head of state or of government to be awarded the US Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian award…. – CS Monitor, 6-3-12
  • Obama holds talks with Israel’s Shimon Peres, presents longtime leader with Presidential Medal of Freedom: President Barack Obama is set to hold talks with Israeli President Shimon Peres before presenting the longtime Mideast leader with the Medal of Freedom at a White House dinner. Peres was elected Israeli’s ninth president in 2007…. – WaPo, 6-12-12
  • Peres accepts US Presidential Medal of Freedom: “I receive this honor today on behalf of the people of Israel. They are the true recipients of this honor.” The White House decided to award President Shimon Peres the Presidential Medal of Freedom…. – JPost, 6-13-12
  • Peres advisor: Door not slammed on Pollard release: Nadav Tamir tells Army Radio “it was not a decisive no” from the US on the possibility of freeing the Israeli agent. US President Barack Obama has not slammed the door on the possibility of releasing imprisoned Israeli…. – JPost, 6-13-12
  • White House ahead of Obama-Peres meeting: US position on Pollard has not changed: Peres to receive Medal of Freedom from Obama at White House ceremony on Wednesday; family of late PM Yitzhak Rabin will be in attendance…. – Haaretz, 6-12-12
  • Israeli president’s Medal of Freedom may revive Pollard spy case: Pollard was a civilian intelligence analyst with the US Navy found guilty in the 1980s of passing classified information to Israel and sentenced to life in prison. For several years, Israel did not acknowledge that Pollard had spied, but in 1995…. – LAT, 6-11-12
  • Shimon Peres has journeyed from ‘loser’ to Israel’s most popular public figure: For decades, the joke in Israel went: How do you know when Shimon Peres is headed for defeat? Peres — today Israel’s extremely popular president and on Wednesday a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom… JTA, 6-12-12
  • Peres in meeting with Panetta: Iran must not be permitted to fulfill its imperialistic ambitions: President hails US military ‘whose mission is not to conquer and occupy’; US Defense Secretary reiterates US ‘rock solid’ support of Israel…. – Haaretz, 6-11-12

President Obama Honors Israeli President Shimon Peres

Source: WH, 6-14-12

In a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday, President Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres, the President of Israel.

“The man, the life that we honor tonight is nothing short of extraordinary,” President Obama said.

Peres began his career in 1947, serving in the Haganah, the predecessor to the Israel Defense Force. He was elected to the Knesset at age 36. Through the course of the next half century, he twice served as Prime Minister and once as Acting Prime Minister. In 1994, he won the Nobel Peace Price with Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat.

President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (another honoree of the Medal of Freedom in 2012), and Elie Wiesel (another winner of the Nobel Peace Prize) were among those in attendance for the presentation.

The Medal of Freedom was established by President Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

President Peres joins an illustrious group of world leaders — including Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, and Vaclav Havel — who previously been presented with the medal.

Remarks by President Obama and President Peres of Israel at Presentation of the Medal of Freedom

East Room

7:12 P.M. EDT

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Good evening, everybody.  Please have a seat.  On behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House on this beautiful summer evening.

The United States is fortunate to have many allies and partners around the world.  Of course, one of our strongest allies, and one of our closest friends, is the State of Israel.  And no individual has done so much over so many years to build our alliance and to bring our two nations closer as the leader that we honor tonight — our friend, Shimon Peres.  (Applause.)

Among many special guests this evening we are especially grateful for the presence of Shimon’s children — Tzvia, Yoni and Chemi, and their families.  Please rise so we can give you a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We have here someone representing a family that has given so much for peace, a voice for peace that carries on with the legacy of her father, Yitzhak Rabin — and that’s Dalia.  We are grateful to have you here.  (Applause.)  Leaders who’ve helped ensure that the United States is a partner for peace — and in particular, I’m so pleased to see Secretary Madeleine Albright, who is here this evening.  (Applause.)  And one of the great moral voices of our time and an inspiration to us all — Professor Elie Wiesel.  (Applause.)

The man, the life that we honor tonight is nothing short of extraordinary.  Shimon took on his first assignment in
Ben-Gurion’s Haganah, during the struggle for Israeli independence in 1947, when he was still in his early 20s.  He ran for President of Israel — and won — when he was 83.   (Laughter.)

By the way, I should mention that I just learned that his son-in-law is also his doctor.  And I asked for all his tips.  (Laughter.)

Shimon has been serving his nation — and strengthening the bonds between our two nations — for some 65 years, the entire life of the State of Israel.  Ben-Gurion and Meir, Begin and Rabin — these giants of Israel’s founding generation now belong to the ages.  But tonight, we have the rare privilege in history — and that’s to be in the presence of a true Founding Father.

Shimon, you have never stopped serving.  And in two months we’ll join our Israeli friends in marking another milestone — your 89th birthday.  (Applause.)

Now, I think Shimon would be the first to tell you that in the ups and downs of Israeli politics, he has been counted out more than once.  But in him we see the essence of Israel itself  — an indomitable spirit that will not be denied.  He’s persevered, serving in virtually every position — in dozens of cabinets, some two dozen ministerial posts, defense minister, finance minister, foreign minister three times.  Try that, Madeleine.  (Laughter.)  And now, the 9th President of Israel.  And I think President Clinton would agree with me on this — Shimon Peres is the ultimate “Comeback Kid.”  (Laughter.)

And he’s still going — on Facebook, on You Tube — (laughter) — connecting with young people; looking to new technologies, always “facing tomorrow.”  Recently, he was asked, “What do you want your legacy to be?”  And Shimon replied, “Well, it’s too early for me to think about it.”  (Laughter.)

Shimon, you earned your place in history long ago.  And I know your work is far from done.  But tonight is another example of how it’s never too early for the rest of us to celebrate your legendary life.

Shimon teaches us to never settle for the world as it is.  We have a vision for the world as it ought to be, and we have to strive for it.  Perhaps Shimon’s spirit comes from what he calls the Jewish “dissatisfaction gene.”  (Laughter.)  “A good Jew,” he says, “can never be satisfied.”  There is a constant impulse to question, to do even better.  So, too, with nations — we must keep challenging ourselves, keep striving for our ideals, for the future that we know is possible.

Shimon knows the necessity of strength.  As Ben-Gurion said, “An Israel capable of defending herself, which cannot be destroyed, can bring peace nearer.”  And so he’s worked with every American President since John F. Kennedy.  That’s why I’ve worked with Prime Minister Netanyahu to ensure that the security cooperation between the United States and Israel is closer and stronger than it has ever been — because the security of the State of Israel is non-negotiable, and the bonds between us are unbreakable.  (Applause.)

Of course, Shimon also knows that a nation’s security depends not just on the strength of its arms, but upon the righteousness of its deeds — its moral compass.  He knows, as Scripture teaches, that we must not only seek peace, but we must pursue peace.  And so it has been the cause of his life — peace, security and dignity, for Israelis and Palestinians and all Israel’s Arab neighbors.  And even in the darkest moments, he’s never lost hope in — as he puts it — “a Middle East that is not a killing field but a field of creativity and growth.”

At times, some have seen his hope and called Shimon Peres a dreamer.  And they are right.  Just look at his life.  The dream of generations, after 2,000 years, to return to Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people — Shimon lived it.  The dream of independence, a Jewish State of Israel — he helped win it.  The dream of an Israel strong enough to defend itself, by itself, against any threat, backed by an ironclad alliance with the United States of America — he helped build it.

The dream of making the desert bloom — he and his wife Sonya were part of the generation that achieved it.  The dream of the high-tech Israel we see today — he helped spark it.  That historic handshake on the White House lawn — he helped to create it.  That awful night in Tel Aviv, when he and Yitzhak sang a Song for Peace, and the grief that followed — he guided his people through it.  The dream of democracy in the Middle East and the hopes of a new generation, including so many young Arabs — he knows we must welcome it and nurture it.

So, yes, Shimon Peres — born in a shtetl in what was then Poland, who rose to become President of Israel — he is a dreamer.  And rightly so.  For he knows what we must never forget:  With faith in ourselves and courage in our hearts, no dream is too big, no vision is beyond our reach.

And so it falls on each of us — to all of us — to keep searching, to keep striving for that future that we know is possible, for the peace our children deserve.

And so it is a high honor for me to bestow this statesman, this warrior for peace, America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  And I’d ask you to please join me in welcoming President Peres to the presentation.  (Applause.)

(The citation is read.)

MILITARY AIDE:  The President of the United States of America awards this Presidential Medal of Freedom to Shimon Peres.  An ardent advocate for Israel’s security and the cause of lasting peace, Shimon Peres has devoted his life to public service.  He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for the profound role he played in Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords, and he continues to serve the Israeli people with courage and dignity.  Through his unwavering devotion to his country and the cooperation of nations, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Before inviting remarks from President Peres, I’d like to conclude by inviting you all to join me in a toast, with the words that Shimon spoke when he accepted the Peace Prize in Oslo:

“From my earliest youth, I have known that while one is obliged to plan with care the stages of one’s journey, one is entitled to dream, and keep dreaming, of its destination.  A man may feel as old as his years, yet as young as his dreams.”

Shimon, to all our friends here tonight, and to our fellow citizens across America and Israel — may we never lose sight of our destination.  Shalom, and may we always be as young as our dreams.

L’chaim.  Cheers.

I have one last order of business to attend to.  Before I ask our recipient to come to the stage — while I began my remarks I was not yet sure whether one more — or two more guests of honor had arrived.  I think it would be entirely appropriate at this point for us also to acknowledge two people who have constantly sought to achieve peace, not only in the Middle East but all around the world — one of them happens to be traveling a lot these days on my behalf — (laughter) — and I am extraordinarily grateful to them.  Shimon, I know that you’re pleased to have two very dear friends to help celebrate this evening.  President Bill Clinton.  (Applause.)  And our outstanding Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, President Shimon Peres.  (Applause.)

PRESIDENT PERES:  Mr. President, Mrs. Obama, it’s so hard to speak after you, my God.  (Laughter.)  You are so moving.  But thank you.  (Laughter.)

I really was profoundly moved by your decision to award me the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  To receive it is an honor.  To receive it from you, Mr. President, in the presence of my dear family, is a privilege that I shall cherish for the rest of my life.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

It is a testament to the historic friendship between our two nations.  When I was really young — not like now — (laughter)  — the founder of the State of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, called me to work with him.  For 65 years, inspired by his leadership, I tried to gather strength for my country, pursue peace for my people.  I learned that public service is a privilege that must be based on moral foundations.

I receive this honor today on behalf of the people of Israel.  They are the true recipients of this honor.  With this moving gesture, you are paying, Mr. President, tribute to generations upon generations of Jews who dreamed of, fought for a state of their own — a state that would give them a shelter; a state that they could really defend by themselves.

So, Mr. President, you are honoring the pioneers who built homes on bombed mountains, on shifting land; fighters who sacrificed their life for their country.  On their behalf, I thank you.  I thank America for days of concern, for sleepless nights, caring for our safety, caring for our future.

Tonight, Mr. President, you kindly invited outstanding personalities whose commitment to Israel is nothing less than heroic.  I offer them the eternal gratitude of my people.  Present here, for me is a very moving presence is Dalia Rabin, the daughter of my partner, the unforgettable Yitzhak Rabin, who gave his life for peace.

Mr. President, you have pledged a lasting friendship for Israel.  You stated that Israel’s security is sacrosanct for you. So you pledged; so you act.  So you are acting as a great leader, as a champion for peace.  Thank you again.  (Applause.)

Dear friends, Israel sincerely admires the United States for being a land of the free, a home of the brave, a nation of generosity.  A world without the United States, without the values of the United States, would have been chaotic.  Moses began his journey to freedom by demanding, “let my people go.”  The prophet Isaiah promised nations will take up swords against nations.  A biblical promise became a grand American reality, first and foremost in human annals.

When the Liberty Bell rang in Philadelphia, it resonated throughout the world.  A tired world was surprised to witness, contrary to its experience, a great nation becoming greater by giving, not by taking; by making generosity the wisdom of policy, and freedom as its heart — freedom from oppression, from persecution, freedom from violence and evil, freedom from discrimination and ignorance; liberty that does not fear liberty, liberty that doesn’t interfere with the liberty of others.  You introduced a constitution based on balance, not on force.

Liberty is also the soul of the Jewish heritage.  We didn’t give up our values, even when we were facing furnaces and gas chambers.  We lived as Jews.  We died as Jews.  And we rose again as free Jewish people.  We didn’t survive merely to be a passing shadow in history, but as a new genesis, a startup nation again.
We are faced with the worst of humanity, but also experience the best of humanity.  We shouldn’t forget either of the two.  When we discovered that we were short of land and water, we realized that we had the priceless resource — the courageous, undefeatable human spirit.

We invested in knowledge and turned our attention to the ever-growing promise of science.  Unlike land and water, science cannot be conquered by armies or won by wars.  In fact, science can make wars unnecessary.  Science provided Israel with the unexpected economic goals — it enabled us to absorb millions of immigrants.  Science enabled us to build an agriculture that is ten times the normal yield.  It enables us to build an effective defense against armies ten times greater than us.  Brave soldiers and sophisticated tools brought us victory in life.

But we remain the people of the book.  Yes, my friends, Israel is the living proof that democracy means progress, science means growth, literature and knowledge means enrichment.  Israel today is an innovating, pluralistic society where Jews, Christians and Muslims live together in peace.  It is not perfect, but it is an example of what may happen in the future.

My friends, we live now in and are now witnessing the departure of one age and the arrival of a new age.  The agricultural age lasted for 10,000 years; the scientific age is still fresh.  Yet in 50 years, the scientific age has achieved more than the 10,000 years of agriculture.  This new age has brought new challenges, new dangers.  It generated a global economy but not a global government.  It gave birth to horrors of global terrorism without global control.

The danger is today concentrated in Iran.  The Iranian people are not our enemies.  It is the present leadership that became a threat.  It turned Iran into a danger to world peace.  It is a leadership that aims to rule the Middle East, spreading terror all over the world.  They are trying to build a nuclear bomb.  They bring darkness to a world longing for light.

It is our responsibility to our own people, to our friends throughout the world, to posterity, that the Iranian threat must be stopped, and it cannot be delayed.

Mr. President, you worked so hard to build a world coalition to meet this immediate threat.  You started, rightly, with economic sanctions.  You made it clear — rightly, again — that all options are on the table.  Clearly, we support you and your policy.  (Applause.)

Friends, extremists are using the conflict of the Palestinians to cover their true ambitions.  The majority of the people in the Middle East, in my judgment, are tired of war.  In many homes, families still mourn the loss of their loved one.  I believe that peace with the Palestinians is most urgent — urgent than ever before.  It is necessary.  It is crucial.  It is possible.  A delay may worsen its chances.

I remember that 19 years ago, on the lawn outside this house, President Clinton — dear, Bill — initiated the peace process.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Since then, the Israelis and Palestinians have come a long way together.  But still, hard work remains ahead.  Israel and the Palestinians are, in my judgment, ripe today to restart the peace process.  (Applause.)

A firm basis already exists.  A solution of two national states — a Jewish state — Israel; an Arab state — Palestine.  The Palestinians are our closest neighbors.  I believe they may become our closest friends.  (Applause.)  Peace with the Palestinians will open ports of peace all around the Mediterranean.  The duty of leaders is to pursue freedom ceaselessly, even in the face of hostility, in the face of doubt and disappointment.  Just imagine what could be.

Now, a young Arab generation has opened its eyes and stood up against oppression, poverty and corruption.  They seek freedom.  They need freedom.  They understand that freedom begins at home.  I pray for their success.  I believe that their success may become the success of all of us.

So, President, my vision is an Israel living in full, genuine peace, joining with all the people in the Middle East — former enemies, new friends alike; Jerusalem becoming the capital of peace; an Israel that is a scientific center open to all, serving all without discrimination; a green Israel, an increasingly green Middle East.

My vision is an Israel whose moral code is old as the Ten Commandments tablets, and whose imagination as new as the digital tablets as well.  (Applause.)  Together, our old and modern vision can help bring tikkun olam.  Mr. President, that’s a better world.  It will take a long time before we shall achieve it and become satisfied, as you have said.  I believe that in the coming decade, Israel will be a center of the latest development in brain research.  As the secrets of the human brain are being revealed, people may improve their capacity to choose between right and wrong.

By the way, I am also extremely optimistic about the United States of America.  You are going to be the real greatest source of energy in our time.  You are introducing a new industry, which is not mass production but individual production.  It’s a new revolution.  And you put again science on top of your agenda.

I believe in the coming decade, Israel will be also a center of the latest developments in brain research.  As the secret of the human brain are revealed, people may improve their capacity to choose between right and wrong.  And absent of a global government — government can contribute to world peace.

Dear friends, my greatest hope is that a dawn will arise when every man and women — Israeli or Palestinian, Syrian or Lebanese, young people wherever they are — will wake up in the morning and be able to say to themselves, I am free to be free.  Amen.  (Applause.)

END
7:43 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency May 29, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Presidential Medal of Freedom Awards Ceremony

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

IN FOCUS: PRESIDENT OBAMA HONORS PRESIDENT MEDAL OF FREEDOM RECEIPIENTS IN WHITE HOUSE CEREMONY

Obama to honor Medal of Freedom recipients: President Barack Obama will honor a diverse cross-section of political and cultural icons — including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, astronaut John Glenn, basketball coach Pat Summitt and rock legend Bob Dylan…. – AP, 5-29-12

  • Albright, World War II hero among 13 to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom: The first woman to serve as US Secretary of State and a Polish officer who provided some of the first accounts of the Holocaust are among 13 people who will be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Tuesday…. – CNN, 5-30-12

President Obama Awards the Medal of Freedom

Source: WH, 5-29-12

President Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Pat Summitt (May 29, 2012)
President Barack Obama presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former University of Tennessee basketball coach Pat Summitt during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 29, 2012. Looking on at left is author Toni Morrison who also received the Medal of Freedom. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

Today, President Obama honored 13 Americans with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

This year’s recipients include cultural icons like Bob Dylan and Toni Morrison, as well as groundbreaking pioneers like former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and Pat Summit, the winningest basketball coach in NCAA history. Also honored were Dolores Huerta, who cofounded the United Farm Workers with Cesar Chavez, and Jan Karski, whose work in the Polish resistance allowed him to share a first-hand account of the Holocaust with Western Allies.

The President said:

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions. They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better. Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye. Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in. It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives. And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Medal of Freedom is highest honor awarded to civilians in the United States. It was established in 1963 by President Kennedy and is presented to those who have made “an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.”

See the full list of honorees here.

Remarks by the President at Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony

* Note – the language in asterisks below is historically inaccurate. It should instead have been: “Nazi death camps in German occupied Poland”. We regret the error.

East Room

3:45 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat, and welcome to the White House.  It is an extraordinary pleasure to be here with all of you to present this year’s Medals of Freedom.  And I have to say, just looking around the room, this is a packed house, which is a testament to how cool this group is.  (Laughter.)  Everybody wanted to check them out.

This is the highest civilian honor this country can bestow, which is ironic, because nobody sets out to win it.  No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking, “You know what, if I keep this up, in 2012, I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama.”  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t in the plan.

But that’s exactly what makes this award so special.  Every one of today’s honorees is blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent.  All of them are driven.  But, yes, we could fill this room many times over with people who are talented and driven.  What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people — not in short, blinding bursts, but steadily, over the course of a lifetime.

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions.  They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better.  Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye.  Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in.  It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives.  And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So I’m going to take an opportunity — I hope you guys don’t mind — to brag about each of you, starting with Madeleine Albright.

Usually, Madeleine does the talking.  (Laughter.)  Once in a while, she lets her jewelry do the talking.  (Laughter.)  When Saddam Hussein called her a “snake,” she wore a serpent on her lapel — (laughter) — the next time she visited Baghdad.  When Slobodan Milosevic referred to her as a “goat,” a new pin appeared in her collection.

As the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat, Madeleine’s courage and toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world.  And as an immigrant herself — the granddaughter of Holocaust victims who fled her native Czechoslovakia as a child — Madeleine brought a unique perspective to the job.  This is one of my favorite stories.  Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man came up to her and said, “Only in America can a refugee meet the Secretary of State.”  And she replied, “Only in America can a refugee become the Secretary of State.”  (Laughter.)  We’re extraordinarily honored to have Madeleine here.  And obviously, I think it’s fair to say I speak for one of your successors who is so appreciative of the work you did and the path that you laid.

It was a scorching hot day in 1963, and Mississippi was on the verge of a massacre.  The funeral procession for Medgar Evers had just disbanded, and a group of marchers was throwing rocks at a line of equally defiant and heavily-armed policemen.  And suddenly, a white man in shirtsleeves, hands raised, walked towards the protestors and talked them into going home peacefully.  And that man was John Doar.  He was the face of the Justice Department in the South.  He was proof that the federal government was listening.  And over the years, John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.  He walked alongside the Selma-to-Montgomery March.  He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In the words of John Lewis, “He gave [civil rights workers] a reason not to give up on those in power.”  And he did it by never giving up on them.  And I think it’s fair to say that I might not be here had it not been for his work.

Bob Dylan started out singing other people’s songs.  But, as he says, “There came a point where I had to write what I wanted to say, because what I wanted to say, nobody else was writing.”  So born in Hibbing, Minnesota — a town, he says, where “you couldn’t be a rebel — it was too cold” — (laughter) — Bob moved to New York at age 19.  By the time he was 23, Bob’s voice, with its weight, its unique, gravelly power was redefining not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel.  Today, everybody from Bruce Springsteen to U2 owes Bob a debt of gratitude.  There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.  All these years later, he’s still chasing that sound, still searching for a little bit of truth.  And I have to say that I am a really big fan.  (Laughter.)

In the 1960s, more than 2 million people died from smallpox every year.  Just over a decade later, that number was zero — 2 million to zero, thanks, in part, to Dr. Bill Foege.  As a young medical missionary working in Nigeria, Bill helped develop a vaccination strategy that would later be used to eliminate smallpox from the face of the Earth.  And when that war was won, he moved on to other diseases, always trying to figure out what works.  In one remote Nigerian village, after vaccinating 2,000 people in a single day, Bill asked the local chief how he had gotten so many people to show up.  And the chief explained that he had told everyone to come see — to “come to the village and see the tallest man in the world.”  (Laughter.)  Today, that world owes that really tall man a great debt of gratitude.

On the morning that John Glenn blasted off into space, America stood still.  And for half an hour, the phones stopped ringing in Chicago police headquarters, and New York subway drivers offered a play-by-play account over the loudspeakers.  President Kennedy interrupted a breakfast with congressional leaders and joined 100 million TV viewers to hear the famous words, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”  The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn became a hero in every sense of the word, but he didn’t stop there serving his country.  As a senator, he found new ways to make a difference.  And on his second trip into space at age 77, he defied the odds once again.  But he reminds everybody, don’t tell him he’s lived a historic life.  He says, “Are living.”  He’ll say, “Don’t put it in the past tense.”  He’s still got a lot of stuff going on.

Gordon Hirabayashi knew what it was like to stand alone.  As a student at the University of Washington, Gordon was one of only three Japanese Americans to defy the executive order that forced thousands of families to leave their homes, their jobs, and their civil rights behind and move to internment camps during World War II.  He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, and he lost.  And it would be another 40 years before that decision was reversed, giving Asian Americans everywhere a small measure of justice.  In Gordon’s words, “It takes a crisis to tell us that unless citizens are willing to standup for the [Constitution], it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”  And this country is better off because of citizens like him who are willing to stand up.

Similarly, when Cesar Chavez sat Dolores Huerta down at his kitchen table and told her they should start a union, she thought he was joking.  She was a single mother of seven children, so she obviously didn’t have a lot of free time.  But Dolores had been an elementary school teacher and remembered seeing children come to school hungry and without shoes.  So in the end, she agreed — and workers everywhere are glad that she did.  Without any negotiating experience, Dolores helped lead a worldwide grape boycott that forced growers to agree to some of the country’s first farm worker contracts.  And ever since, she has fought to give more people a seat at the table.  “Don’t wait to be invited,” she says, “Step in there.”  And on a personal note, Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, “Si, se puede.”  Yes, we can.  (Laughter.)  Knowing her, I’m pleased that she let me off easy — (laughter) — because Dolores does not play.  (Laughter.)

For years, Jan Karski’s students at Georgetown University knew he was a great professor; what they didn’t realize was he was also a hero.  Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II.  Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a *Polish death camp* to see for himself.  Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.  It was decades before Jan was ready to tell his story.  By then, he said, “I don’t need courage anymore.  So I teach compassion.”

Growing up in Georgia in the late 1800s, Juliette Gordon Low was not exactly typical.  She flew airplanes.  She went swimming.  She experimented with electricity for fun.  (Laughter.)  And she recognized early on that in order to keep up with the changing times, women would have to be prepared.  So at age 52, after meeting the founder of the Boy Scouts in England, Juliette came home and called her cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world.  And we’re going to start it tonight!”  A century later, almost 60 million Girl Scouts have gained leadership skills and self-confidence through the organization that she founded.  They include CEOs, astronauts, my own Secretary of State.  And from the very beginning, they have also included girls of different races and faiths and abilities, just the way that Juliette would have wanted it.

Toni Morrison — she is used to a little distraction.  As a single mother working at a publishing company by day, she would carve out a little time in the evening to write, often with her two sons pulling on her hair and tugging at her earrings.  Once, a baby spit up on her tablet so she wrote around it.  (Laughter.)  Circumstances may not have been ideal, but the words that came out were magical.  Toni Morrison’s prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt.  From “Song of Solomon” to “Beloved,” Toni reaches us deeply, using a tone that is lyrical, precise, distinct, and inclusive.  She believes that language “arcs toward the place where meaning might lie.”  The rest of us are lucky to be following along for the ride.

During oral argument, Justice John Paul Stevens often began his line of questioning with a polite, “May I interrupt?” or “May I ask a question?”  You can imagine the lawyers would say, “okay” — (laughter) — after which he would, just as politely, force a lawyer to stop dancing around and focus on the most important issues in the case.  And that was his signature style:  modest, insightful, well-prepared, razor-sharp.  He is the third-longest serving Justice in the history of the Court.  And Justice Stevens applied, throughout his career, his clear and graceful manner to the defense of individual rights and the rule of law, always favoring a pragmatic solution over an ideological one.  Ever humble, he would happily comply when unsuspecting tourists asked him to take their picture in front of the Court.  (Laughter.)  And at his vacation home in Florida, he was John from Arlington, better known for his world-class bridge game than his world-changing judicial opinions.  Even in his final days on the bench, Justice Stevens insisted he was still “learning on the job.”  But in the end, we are the ones who have learned from him.

When a doctor first told Pat Summitt she suffered from dementia, she almost punched him.  When a second doctor advised her to retire, she responded, “Do you know who you’re dealing with here?”  (Laughter.)  Obviously, they did not.  As Pat says, “I can fix a tractor, mow hay, plow a field, chop tobacco, fire a barn, and call the cows.  But what I’m really known for is winning.”  In 38 years at Tennessee, she racked up eight national championships and more than 1,000 wins — understand, this is more than any college coach, male or female, in the history of the NCAA.  And more importantly, every player that went through her program has either graduated or is on her way to a degree.  That’s why anybody who feels sorry for Pat will find themselves on the receiving end of that famous glare, or she might punch you.  (Laughter.)  She’s still getting up every day and doing what she does best, which is teaching.  “The players,” she says, “are my best medicine.”

Our final honoree is not here — Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, who has done more for the cause of peace in the Middle East than just about anybody alive.  I’ll be hosting President Peres for a dinner here at the White House next month, and we’ll be presenting him with his medal and honoring his incredible contributions to the state of Israel and the world at that time.  So I’m looking forward to welcoming him.  And if it’s all right with you, I will save my best lines about him for that occasion.

So these are the recipients of the 2012 Medals of Freedom.  And just on a personal note, I had a chance to see everybody in the back.  What’s wonderful about these events for me is so many of these people are my heroes individually.  I know how they impacted my life.

I remember reading “Song of Solomon” when I was a kid and not just trying to figure out how to write, but also how to be and how to think.  And I remember in college listening to Bob Dylan and my world opening up because he captured something that — about this country that was so vital.  And I think about Dolores Huerta, reading about her when I was starting off as an organizer.

Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways.  And I was telling — somebody like Pat Summitt — when I think about my two daughters, who are tall and gifted, and knowing that because of folks like Coach Summitt they’re standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong, then I understand that the impact that these people have had extends beyond me.  It will continue for generations to come.  What an extraordinary honor to be able to say thank you to all of them for the great work that they have done on behalf of this country and on behalf of the world.

So it is now my great honor to present them with a small token of our appreciation.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Presidential Medal of Freedom citations:

Madeleine Korbel Albright.  Madeleine Korbel Albright broke barriers and left an indelible mark on the world as the first female Secretary of State in the United States’ history.  Through her consummate diplomacy and steadfast democratic ideals, Secretary Albright advanced peace in the Middle East, nuclear arms control, justice in the Balkans, and human rights around the world.  With unwavering leadership and continued engagement with the global community, she continues her noble pursuit of freedom and dignity for all people.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think this goes very well with your broach.  (Laughter.)

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  John Doar.  As African Americans strove for justice, John Doar led federal efforts to defend equality and enforce civil rights.  Risking his life to confront the injustices around him, he prevented a violent riot, obtained convictions for the killings of civil rights activists, and stood by the first African American student at the University of Mississippi on his first day of class.  During pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement and in the troubled times of the Watergate scandal, John Doar fought to protect the core values of liberty, equality and democracy that have made America a leader among nations.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Bill Foege.

THE PRESIDENT:  He is pretty tall.  (Laughter.)

MILITARY AIDE:  A distinguished physician and epidemiologist, Bill Foege helped lead a campaign to eradicate smallpox that stands among medicine’s greatest success stories.  At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Carter Center, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has taken on humanity’s most intractable public health challenges from infectious diseases to child survival and development.  Bill Foege has driven decades of progress to safeguard the well-being of all, and he has inspired a generation of leaders in the fight for a healthier world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Glenn has set a peerless example through his service to our nation.  As a Marine Corps pilot and the first American to orbit the Earth, he sparked our passions for ingenuity and adventure and lifted humanity’s ambitions into the expanses of space.  In the United States Senate, he worked tirelessly to ensure all Americans had the opportunity to reach for limitless dreams.  Whether by advancing legislation to limit the spread of nuclear weapons or by becoming the oldest person ever to visit space, John Glenn’s example has moved us all to look to new horizons with drive and optimism.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Susan Carnahan, accepting on behalf of her husband Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi.  In his open defiance of discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II, Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi demanded our nation live up to its founding principles.  Imprisoned for ignoring curfew and refusing to register for internment camps, he took his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Refusing to abandon his belief in an America that stands for fundamental human rights, he pursued justice until his conviction was overturned in 1987.  Gordon Hirabayashi’s legacy reminds us that patriotism is rooted not in ethnicity, but in our shared ideals.  And his example will forever call on us to defend the liberty of all our citizens.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta.  One of America’s great labor and civil rights icons, Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta has devoted her life to advocating for marginalized communities.  Alongside Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the United Farm Workers of America and fought to secure basic rights for migrant workers and their families, helping save thousands from neglect and abuse.  Dolores Huerta has never lost faith in the power of community organizing, and through the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she continues to train and mentor new activists to walk the streets into history.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Polish foreign minister accepting on behalf of Jan Karski.  As a young officer in the Polish Underground, Jan Karski was among the first to relay accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  A witness to atrocity in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, he repeatedly crossed enemy line to document the face of genocide, and courageously voiced tragic truths all the way to President Roosevelt.  Jan Karski illuminated one of the darkest chapters of history, and his heroic intervention on behalf of the innocent will never be forgotten.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Richard Platt, accepting on behalf of his great aunt, Juliette Gordon Low.  An artist, athlete and trailblazer for America’s daughters, Juliette Gordon Low founded an organization to teach young women self-reliance and resourcefulness.  A century later, during the “Year of the Girl,” the Girl Scouts’ more than 3 million members are leaders in their communities and are translating new skills into successful careers.  Americans of all backgrounds continue to draw inspiration from Juliette Gordon Low’s remarkable vision, and we celebrate her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.

(The medal is presented.  Applause.)

Toni Morrison.  The first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize, Toni Morrison is one of our nation’s most distinguished storytellers.  She has captivated readers through lyrical prose that depicts the complexities of a people and challenges our concepts of race and gender.  Her works are hallmarks of the American literary tradition, and the United States proudly honors her for her nursing of souls and strengthening the character of our union.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Paul Stevens.  From the Navy to the bench, John Paul Stevens has devoted himself to service to our nation.  After earning a Bronze Star in World War II, Stevens returned home to pursue a career in law.  As an attorney, he became a leading practitioner of anti-trust law.  And as a Supreme Court Justice, he dedicated his long and distinguished tenure to applying our Constitution with fidelity and independence.  His integrity, humility, and steadfast commitment to the rule of law have fortified the noble vision of our nation’s founders.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Pat Summitt.  Pat Summitt is an unparalleled figure in collegiate sports.  Over 38 seasons, she proudly led the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers to 32 SEC tournament and regular season championships and eight national titles, becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.  On the court, Coach Summitt inspired young women across our country to shoot even higher in pursuit of their dreams.  Off the court, she has inspired us all by turning her personal struggle into a public campaign to combat Alzheimer’s disease.  Pat Summitt’s strength and character exemplify all that is best about athletics in America.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Bob Dylan.  A modern-day troubadour, Bob Dylan established himself as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.  The rich poetry of his lyrics opened up new possibilities for popular song and inspired generations.  His melodies have brought ancient traditions into the modern age.  More than 50 years after his career began, Bob Dylan remains an eminent voice in our national conversation and around the world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Can everybody please stand and give a rousing applause to our Medal of Freedom winners?  (Applause.)

Well, we could not be prouder of all of them.  We could not be more grateful to all of them.  You have had an impact on all of us, and I know that you will continue to have an impact on all of us.  So thank you for being here.  Thank you for putting yourself through White House ceremonies — (laughter) — which are always full of all kinds of protocol.

Fortunately, we also have a reception afterwards.  I hear the food around here is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  So I look forward to all of you having a chance to stay and mingle, and again, thank you again, to all of you.  (Applause.)

END                4:22 P.M. EDT

April 26, 2012

President Obama Names Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipients

WASHINGTON – Today, President Barack Obama named thirteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring.

President Obama said, “These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation.  They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place.  I look forward to recognizing them with this award.”

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

Madeleine Albright
From 1997 to 2001, under President William J. Clinton, Albright served as the 64th United States Secretary of State, the first woman to hold that position.  During her tenure, she worked to enlarge NATO and helped lead the Alliance’s campaign against terror and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, pursued peace in the Middle East and Africa, sought to reduce the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons, and was a champion of democracy, human rights, and good governance across the globe.  From 1993 to 1997, she was America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.  Since leaving office, she founded the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management, returned to teaching at Georgetown University, and authored five books.  Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute and is President of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

John Doar
Doar was a legendary public servant and leader of federal efforts to protect and enforce civil rights during the 1960s.  He served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  In that capacity, he was instrumental during many major civil rights crises, including singlehandedly preventing a riot in Jackson, Mississippi, following the funeral of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evars in 1963.  Doar brought notable civil rights cases, including obtaining convictions for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and leading the effort to enforce the right to vote and implement the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  He later served as Special Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary as it investigated the Watergate scandal and considered articles of impeachment against President Nixon.  Doar continues to practice law at Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York.

Bob Dylan
One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album in 1962.  Known for his rich and poetic lyrics, his work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades.  He has won 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award.  He was named a Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Art et des Lettres and has received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.  Dylan was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts.  He has written more than 600 songs, and his songs have been recorded more than 3,000 times by other artists.  He continues recording and touring around the world today.

William Foege
A physician and epidemiologist, Foege helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s.  He was appointed Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1977 and, with colleagues, founded the Task Force for Child Survival in 1984.  Foege became Executive Director of The Carter Center in 1986 and continues to serve the organization as a Senior Fellow.  He helped shape the global health work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and remains a champion of a wide array of issues, including child survival and development, injury prevention, and preventative medicine.  Foege’s leadership has contributed significantly to increased awareness and action on global health issues, and his enthusiasm, energy, and effectiveness in these endeavors have inspired a generation of leaders in public health.

John Glenn
Glenn is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States Senator.  In 1962, he was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth.  After retiring from the Marine Corps, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate in Ohio in 1974. He was an architect and sponsor of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act and served as Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs committee from 1987 until 1995.  In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to visit space at the age of 77. He retired from the Senate in 1999. Glenn is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Gordon Hirabayashi
Hirabayashi openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, he refused the order to report for evacuation to an internment camp, instead turning himself in to the FBI to assert his belief that these practices were racially discriminatory.  Consequently, he was convicted by a U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle of defying the exclusion order and violating curfew.  Hirabayashi appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Following World War II and his time in prison, Hirabayashi obtained his doctoral degree in sociology and became a professor.  In 1987, his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Hirabayashi died on January 2, 2012.

Dolores Huerta
Huerta is a civil rights, workers, and women’s advocate. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.  Huerta has served as a community activist and a political organizer, and was influential in securing the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and disability insurance for farmworkers in California.  In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing community organizers and national leaders.  In 1998, President Clinton awarded her the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.

Jan Karski
Karski served as an officer in the Polish Underground during World War II and carried among the first eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  He worked as a courier, entering the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, where he saw first-hand the atrocities occurring under Nazi occupation.  Karski later traveled to London to meet with the Polish government-in-exile and with British government officials.  He subsequently traveled to the United States and met with President Roosevelt.  Karski published Story of a Secret State, earned a Ph.D at Georgetown University, and became a professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.  Born in 1914, Karski became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and died in 2000.

Juliette Gordon Low
Born in 1860, Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.  The organization strives to teach girls self-reliance and resourcefulness.  It also encourages girls to seek fulfillment in the professional world and to become active citizens in their communities.  Since 1912, the Girl Scouts has grown into the largest educational organization for girls and has had over 50 million members.  Low died in 1927.  This year, the Girl Scouts celebrate their 100th Anniversary, calling 2012 “The Year of the Girl.”

Toni Morrison
One of our nation’s most celebrated novelists, Morrison is renowned for works such as Song of Solomon, Jazz, and Beloved, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.  When she became the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1993, Morrison’s citation captured her as an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”  She created the Princeton Atelier at Princeton University to convene artists and students.  Morrison continues to write today.

Shimon Peres
An ardent advocate for Israel’s security and for peace, Shimon Peres was elected the ninth President of Israel in 2007.  First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Israeli government, including in twelve Cabinets as Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Transport and Communications.  Peres served as Prime Minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996.  Along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as Foreign Minister during the Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords. Through his life and work, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.

John Paul Stevens
Stevens served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010, when he retired as the third longest-serving Justice in the Court’s history.  Known for his independent, pragmatic and rigorous approach to judging, Justice Stevens and his work have left a lasting imprint on the law in areas such as civil rights, the First Amendment, the death penalty, administrative law, and the separation of powers.  He was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford, and previously served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Stevens is a veteran of World War II, in which he served as a naval intelligence officer and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Pat Summitt
In addition to accomplishing an outstanding career as the all-time winningest leader among all NCAA basketball coaches, Summitt has taken the University of Tennessee to more Final Four appearances than any other coach and has the second best record of NCAA Championships in basketball.  She has received numerous awards, including being named Naismith Women’s Collegiate Coach of the Century.  Off the court, she has been a spokesperson against Alzheimer’s.  The Pat Summitt Foundation will make grants to nonprofits to provide education and awareness, support to patients and families, and research to prevent, cure and ultimately eradicate early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.

Full Text Obama Presidency March 4, 2012: President Barack Obama’s Speech to AIPAC American Israel Public Affairs Committee Policy Conference on Iran — Transcript

POLITICAL SPEECHES & DOCUMENTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Speaks at the AIPAC Policy Conference

Source: WH, 3-4-12

President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference
President Barack Obama delivers remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
This morning, President Obama addressed the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C., where he reaffirmed the strength of our Nation’s special bond with Israel. Tomorrow, President Obama will hold a bi-lateral meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.

During his remarks today, the President discussed the actions his Administration has taken to support Israel:

But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds. Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture – at every fork in the road – we have been there for Israel. Every single time.

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that “Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable.” That belief has guided my actions as President. The fact is, my Administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented. Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer. Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust. Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every year. We are investing in new capabilities. We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology – the type of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: we will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge – because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.

The President also discussed the importance of securing peace between Israelis and Palestinians – a goal shared by the Israeli government:

Of course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but my Administration’s ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. So let me say this: I make no apologies for pursuing peace. Israel’s own leaders understand the necessity of peace. Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, and President Peres – each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state.

I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interest. The reality that Israel faces – from shifting demographics, to emerging technologies, to an extremely difficult international environment – demands a resolution of this issue. And I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values – because of our shared belief in self-determination; and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected.

President Obama also discussed the United States and Israel’s mutual interest in ensuring that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons. As the President said: “Iran’s leaders should know that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests. But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States. Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we have done so much to build. There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization. It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the most volatile regions in the world. It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

President of Israel Shimon Peres acknowledges recognition from President Barack Obama
President of Israel Shimon Peres acknowledges recognition from President Barack Obama during President Obama’s remarks to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) Policy Conference at the Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., March 4, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

POLITICAL QUOTES & SPEECHES

Remarks by the President at AIPAC Policy Conference

Washington Convention Center
Washington, D.C.

11:10 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Well, good morning, everyone.

Rosy, thank you for your kind words.  I have never seen Rosy on the basketball court.  I’ll bet it would be a treat.  (Laughter.)  Rosy, you’ve been a dear friend of mine for a long time and a tireless advocate for the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.  And as you complete your term as President, I salute your leadership and your commitment.  (Applause.)

I want to thank the board of directors.  As always, I’m glad to see my long-time friends in the Chicago delegation.  (Applause.)  I also want to thank the members of Congress who are with us here today, and who will be speaking to you over the next few days.  You’ve worked hard to maintain the partnership between the United States and Israel.  And I especially want to thank my close friend, and leader of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.  (Applause.)

I’m glad that my outstanding young Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, is in the house.  (Applause.)  I understand that Dan is perfecting his Hebrew on his new assignment, and I appreciate his constant outreach to the Israeli people.  And I’m also pleased that we’re joined by so many Israeli officials, including Ambassador Michael Oren.  (Applause.)  And tomorrow, I’m very much looking forward to welcoming Prime Minister Netanyahu and his delegation back to the White House.  (Applause.)

Every time I come to AIPAC, I’m especially impressed to see so many young people here.  (Applause.)  You don’t yet get the front seats — I understand.  (Laughter.)  You have to earn that. But students from all over the country who are making their voices heard and engaging deeply in our democratic debate.  You carry with you an extraordinary legacy of more than six decades of friendship between the United States and Israel.  And you have the opportunity — and the responsibility — to make your own mark on the world.  And for inspiration, you can look to the man who preceded me on this stage, who’s being honored at this conference — my friend, President Shimon Peres.  (Applause.)

Shimon was born a world away from here, in a shtetl in what was then Poland, a few years after the end of the first world war.  But his heart was always in Israel, the historic homeland of the Jewish people.  (Applause.)  And when he was just a boy he made his journey across land and sea — toward home.

In his life, he has fought for Israel’s independence, and he has fought for peace and security.  As a member of the Haganah and a member of the Knesset, as a Minister of Defense and Foreign Affairs, as a Prime Minister and as President — Shimon helped build the nation that thrives today:  the Jewish state of Israel. (Applause.)  But beyond these extraordinary achievements, he has also been a powerful moral voice that reminds us that right makes might — not the other way around.  (Applause.)

Shimon once described the story of the Jewish people by saying it proved that, “slings, arrows and gas chambers can annihilate man, but cannot destroy human values, dignity, and freedom.”  And he has lived those values.  (Applause.)  He has taught us to ask more of ourselves, and to empathize more with our fellow human beings.  I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example.  And I’m proud to announce that later this spring, I will invite Shimon Peres to the White House to present him with America’s highest civilian honor — the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  (Applause.)

In many ways, this award is a symbol of the broader ties that bind our nations.  The United States and Israel share interests, but we also share those human values that Shimon spoke about:  A commitment to human dignity.  A belief that freedom is a right that is given to all of God’s children.  An experience that shows us that democracy is the one and only form of government that can truly respond to the aspirations of citizens.

America’s Founding Fathers understood this truth, just as Israel’s founding generation did.  President Truman put it well, describing his decision to formally recognize Israel only minutes after it declared independence.  He said, “I had faith in Israel before it was established.  I believe it has a glorious future before it — as not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.”

For over six decades, the American people have kept that faith.  Yes, we are bound to Israel because of the interests that we share — in security for our communities, prosperity for our people, the new frontiers of science that can light the world. But ultimately it is our common ideals that provide the true foundation for our relationship.  That is why America’s commitment to Israel has endured under Democratic and Republican Presidents, and congressional leaders of both parties.  (Applause.)  In the United States, our support for Israel is bipartisan, and that is how it should stay.  (Applause.)

AIPAC’s work continually nurtures this bond.  And because of AIPAC’s effectiveness in carrying out its mission, you can expect that over the next several days, you will hear many fine words from elected officials describing their commitment to the U.S.-Israel relationship.  But as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words.  You can look at my deeds.  Because over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel.  At every crucial juncture — at every fork in the road — we have been there for Israel.  Every single time.  (Applause.)

Four years ago, I stood before you and said that, “Israel’s security is sacrosanct.  It is non-negotiable.”  That belief has guided my actions as President.  The fact is, my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented.  Our military and intelligence cooperation has never been closer.  (Applause.)  Our joint exercises and training have never been more robust.  Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year.  (Applause.)  We are investing in new capabilities.  We’re providing Israel with more advanced technology — the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies.  And make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge — because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.  (Applause.)

This isn’t just about numbers on a balance sheet.  As a senator, I spoke to Israeli troops on the Lebanese border.  I visited with families who’ve known the terror of rocket fire in Sderot.  And that’s why, as President, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes and hospitals and schools in that town and in others.  (Applause.)  Now our assistance is expanding Israel’s defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles.  Because no family, no citizen, should live in fear.

And just as we’ve been there with our security assistance, we’ve been there through our diplomacy.  When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it.  (Applause.)  When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them.  (Applause.)  When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism.  (Applause.)

When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them.  When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them.  (Applause.)  When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them.  (Applause.)  And whenever an effort is made to de-legitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them.  (Applause.)  So there should not be a shred of doubt by now — when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.  (Applause.)

Which is why, if during this political season — (laughter) — you hear some questions regarding my administration’s support for Israel, remember that it’s not backed up by the facts.  And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics.  America’s national security is too important.  Israel’s security is too important.  (Applause.)

Of course, there are those who question not my security and diplomatic commitments, but rather my administration’s ongoing pursuit of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.  So let me say this:  I make no apologies for pursuing peace.  Israel’s own leaders understand the necessity of peace.  Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Barak, President Peres — each of them have called for two states, a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state.  I believe that peace is profoundly in Israel’s security interest.  (Applause.)

The reality that Israel faces — from shifting demographics, to emerging technologies, to an extremely difficult international environment — demands a resolution of this issue.  And I believe that peace with the Palestinians is consistent with Israel’s founding values — because of our shared belief in self-determination, and because Israel’s place as a Jewish and democratic state must be protected.  (Applause.)

Of course, peace is hard to achieve.  There’s a reason why it’s remained elusive for six decades.  The upheaval and uncertainty in Israel’s neighborhood makes it that much harder — from the horrific violence raging in Syria, to the transition in Egypt.  And the division within the Palestinian leadership makes it harder still — most notably, with Hamas’s continued rejection of Israel’s very right to exist.

But as hard as it may be, we should not, and cannot, give in to cynicism or despair.  The changes taking place in the region make peace more important, not less.  And I’ve made it clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met.  (Applause.)  That’s why we continue to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel, and will continue to support the peace treaty with Egypt.  That’s why — just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace — we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, and reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements.  (Applause.)  And that is why my administration has consistently rejected any efforts to short-cut negotiations or impose an agreement on the parties.  (Applause.)

As Rosy noted, last year, I stood before you and pledged that, “the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations.”  As you know, that pledge has been kept.  (Applause.)  Last September, I stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed that any lasting peace must acknowledge the fundamental legitimacy of Israel and its security concerns.  I said that America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, our friendship with Israel is enduring, and that Israel must be recognized.  No American President has made such a clear statement about our support for Israel at the United Nations at such a difficult time.  People usually give those speeches before audiences like this one — not before the General Assembly.  (Applause.)

And I must say, there was not a lot of applause.  (Laughter.)  But it was the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  And as a result, today there is no doubt — anywhere in the world — that the United States will insist upon Israel’s security and legitimacy.  (Applause.)  That will be true as we continue our efforts to pursue — in the pursuit of peace.  And that will be true when it comes to the issue that is such a focus for all of us today:  Iran’s nuclear program — a threat that has the potential to bring together the worst rhetoric about Israel’s destruction with the world’s most dangerous weapons.

Let’s begin with a basic truth that you all understand:  No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction.  (Applause.)  And so I understand the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and all of Israel’s leaders.

A nuclear-armed Iran is completely counter to Israel’s security interests.  But it is also counter to the national security interests of the United States.  (Applause.)

Indeed, the entire world has an interest in preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  A nuclear-armed Iran would thoroughly undermine the non-proliferation regime that we’ve done so much to build.  There are risks that an Iranian nuclear weapon could fall into the hands of a terrorist organization.  It is almost certain that others in the region would feel compelled to get their own nuclear weapon, triggering an arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions.  It would embolden a regime that has brutalized its own people, and it would embolden Iran’s proxies, who have carried out terrorist attacks from the Levant to southwest Asia.

And that is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people, and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.  And that is what we have done.  (Applause.)

When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters.  Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to thousands, without facing broad pushback from the world.  In the region, Iran was ascendant — increasingly popular, and extending its reach.  In other words, the Iranian leadership was united and on the move, and the international community was divided about how to go forward.

And so from my very first months in office, we put forward a very clear choice to the Iranian regime:  a path that would allow them to rejoin the community of nations if they meet their international obligations, or a path that leads to an escalating series of consequences if they don’t.  In fact, our policy of engagement — quickly rebuffed by the Iranian regime — allowed us to rally the international community as never before, to expose Iran’s intransigence, and to apply pressure that goes far beyond anything that the United States could do on our own.

Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever before.  Some of you will recall, people predicted that Russia and China wouldn’t join us to move toward pressure.  They did.  And in 2010 the U.N. Security Council overwhelmingly supported a comprehensive sanctions effort.  Few thought that sanctions could have an immediate bite on the Iranian regime.  They have, slowing the Iranian nuclear program and virtually grinding the Iranian economy to a halt in 2011.  Many questioned whether we could hold our coalition together as we moved against Iran’s Central Bank and oil exports.  But our friends in Europe and Asia and elsewhere are joining us.  And in 2012, the Iranian government faces the prospect of even more crippling sanctions.

That is where we are today — because of our work.  Iran is isolated, its leadership divided and under pressure.  And by the way, the Arab Spring has only increased these trends, as the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime is exposed, and its ally — the Assad regime — is crumbling.

Of course, so long as Iran fails to meet its obligations, this problem remains unresolved.  The effective implementation of our policy is not enough — we must accomplish our objective.  (Applause.)  And in that effort, I firmly believe that an opportunity still remains for diplomacy — backed by pressure — to succeed.

The United States and Israel both assess that Iran does not yet have a nuclear weapon, and we are exceedingly vigilant in monitoring their program.  Now, the international community has a responsibility to use the time and space that exists.  Sanctions are continuing to increase, and this July — thanks to our diplomatic coordination — a European ban on Iranian oil imports will take hold.  (Applause.)  Faced with these increasingly dire consequences, Iran’s leaders still have the opportunity to make the right decision.  They can choose a path that brings them back into the community of nations, or they can continue down a dead end.

And given their history, there are, of course, no guarantees that the Iranian regime will make the right choice.  But both Israel and the United States have an interest in seeing this challenge resolved diplomatically.  After all, the only way to truly solve this problem is for the Iranian government to make a decision to forsake nuclear weapons.  That’s what history tells us.

Moreover, as President and Commander-in-Chief, I have a deeply held preference for peace over war.  (Applause.)  I have sent men and women into harm’s way.  I’ve seen the consequences of those decisions in the eyes of those I meet who’ve come back gravely wounded, and the absence of those who don’t make it home. Long after I leave this office, I will remember those moments as the most searing of my presidency.  And for this reason, as part of my solemn obligation to the American people, I will only use force when the time and circumstances demand it.  And I know that Israeli leaders also know all too well the costs and consequences of war, even as they recognize their obligation to defend their country.

We all prefer to resolve this issue diplomatically.  Having said that, Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States — (applause) — just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.  (Applause.)

I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.  (Applause.)  That includes all elements of American power:  A political effort aimed at isolating Iran; a diplomatic effort to sustain our coalition and ensure that the Iranian program is monitored; an economic effort that imposes crippling sanctions; and, yes, a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.  (Applause.)

Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  (Applause.)  And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.  (Applause.)

Moving forward, I would ask that we all remember the weightiness of these issues; the stakes involved for Israel, for America, and for the world.  Already, there is too much loose talk of war.  Over the last few weeks, such talk has only benefited the Iranian government, by driving up the price of oil, which they depend on to fund their nuclear program.  For the sake of Israel’s security, America’s security, and the peace and security of the world, now is not the time for bluster.  Now is the time to let our increased pressure sink in, and to sustain the broad international coalition we have built.  Now is the time to heed the timeless advice from Teddy Roosevelt:  Speak softly; carry a big stick.  (Applause.)  And as we do, rest assured that the Iranian government will know our resolve, and that our coordination with Israel will continue.

These are challenging times.  But we’ve been through challenging times before, and the United States and Israel have come through them together.  Because of our cooperation, citizens in both our countries have benefited from the bonds that bring us together.  I’m proud to be one of those people.  In the past, I’ve shared in this forum just why those bonds are so personal for me:  the stories of a great uncle who helped liberate Buchenwald, to my memories of returning there with Elie Wiesel; from sharing books with President Peres to sharing seders with my young staff in a tradition that started on the campaign trail and continues in the White House; from the countless friends I know in this room to the concept of tikkun olam that has enriched and guided my life.  (Applause.)

As Harry Truman understood, Israel’s story is one of hope. We may not agree on every single issue — no two nations do, and our democracies contain a vibrant diversity of views.  But we agree on the big things — the things that matter.  And together, we are working to build a better world — one where our people can live free from fear; one where peace is founded upon justice; one where our children can know a future that is more hopeful than the present.

There is no shortage of speeches on the friendship between the United States and Israel.  But I’m also mindful of the proverb, “A man is judged by his deeds, not his words.”  So if you want to know where my heart lies, look no further than what I have done — to stand up for Israel; to secure both of our countries; and to see that the rough waters of our time lead to a peaceful and prosperous shore.  (Applause.)

Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless the people of Israel.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END
11:42 A.M. EST

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