Stephanie Young, 202-225-3130
WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today at the Congressional Gold Medal Ceremony honoring Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg for his role in rescuing as many as one hundred thousand Jews during the Holocaust. Below are his remarks as delivered:
“Unfortunately, Leader Pelosi couldn’t be here this afternoon, and she asked me to convey her greetings to all of you and to express her gratitude to Nina and the entire Wallenberg family along with her congratulations on the presentation of this gold medal.
“The Talmud teaches: ‘Whoever destroys a single soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world; and whoever saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.’
“Raoul Wallenberg saved one hundred thousand worlds, and the descendents of those whose lives were spared because of his courage and conviction today number like the stars.
“Today’s gold medal ceremony is not only a moment to reflect on his heroism and his role as one of the most consequential ‘righteous among the nations.’ It is also an opportunity for all of us here to remember the lesson he taught us all through his example –a lesson as applicable today as it was amid the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust.
“And that lesson is our duty never to be indifferent. Never to be a bystander to injustice. Never to say: ‘someone else will do the right thing, so I don’t have to.’
“Like his countrymen in Sweden and those who have paid tribute to him in Israel, in Hungary, and around the world, Americans honor Raoul Wallenberg because we see in the man and in his incredible act of resistance a reminder of the same values that led our nation to fight for the liberation of Europe during the Second World War and to support movements for human rights, self-determination, and democracy ever since. Congress honored him by making him an honorary citizen in 1981 and accepting a bust of his likeness that now greets visitors in Emancipation Hall. Today we continue the work of celebrating his life and his heroism, for which millions continue to give thanks.
“And, on a personal level, I am grateful to Raoul Wallenberg for making possible the years of close friendship I was so very fortunate to share with Tom Lantos – and still do with Annette. And all Americans are indebted to him for making possible Tom’s irreplaceable service to this country as a Member of Congress and a moral voice for America’s support for human rights around the world. As a result of the many survivors like Tom and Annette who have worked to combat the forces of bloodshed and intolerance that marred their early years, Raoul Wallenberg’s work of saving lives continues to this day and will, we pray, continue for generations to come.
“Tom once said: ‘The veneer of civilization is paper thin. We are the guardians, and we can never rest.’
“We must never rest – and never forget. We must never forget the tragedy that befell the victims, the determination of the survivors, and certainly, as we do today, the unbelievable courage of those who resisted and risked their lives to save others. Today we present a gold medal; Raoul Wallenberg was the gold standard among humanity.”