A transcript of President Reagan's remarks at White House ceremony yesterday for Jewish Heritage Week:
I'm pleased that each of you could be with us today to celebrate Jewish Heritage Week. We recall today the great accomplishments in science, philosophy, literature, art and music made throughout history by the Jewish people. And we remember that it is the spiritual and moral values of Judaism which encompass the dream of peace and human dignity that has enabled the Jewish people -- and ennobled the Jewish people, I should say -- and through them, their fellow men.
Throughout the world, the Jewish people have just finished celebrating Passover, the holiday that marks the exodus from Egypt, the deliverance from slavery.
But this week, we commemorate a nondeliverance, a time when exodus was refused, when the doors of refuge were closed and in their place came death. In the Passover narrative, the Haggadah, there is the phrase, "In every generation, they rise up against us to annihilate us." In the generation of the Holocaust, that annihilation nearly succeeded in Europe. Six million murdered; among them, over a million children.
How does life continue in the face of this crime against humanity? The survivors swore their oath, "Never again." And the American people also made that pledge, "Never again." And we've kept it. We kept it when we supported the establishment of the state of Israel, the refuge that the Jewish people lacked during the Holocaust, the dream of generations, the sure sign of God's hand in history. America will never waiver in our support for that nation to which our ties of faith are unbreakable.
To say "Never again," however, is not enough. When, with Israel, the United States reached out to help save Ethiopian Jewry, we were also fulfilling our pledge. This was truly God's work.
Today, we work on and on to help Soviet Jewry, which suffers from persecution, intimidation and imprisonment within Soviet borders. We will never relinquish our hope for their freedom. And we will never cease to work for it.
If the Soviet Union truly wants peace, truly wants friendship, then let them release Anatoliy Scharansky and free Soviet Jewry.
But our pledge was more than "Never again." It was also "Never forget." And we've kept that pledge, too. We kept that pledge when we established the Holocaust memorial commission and set the cornerstone for its museum. We keep that pledge when, in our colleges and universities, we teach each new generation of Americans the story of the Holocaust. And in our lives, we keep that pledge when we privately, in our own families and in our hearts, remember.
From the ashes of the Holocaust emerged the miracle of Israel, and another miracle, that the survivors began life again. They came to new lands, many to Israel and many, thank God, to America. They built new families, and with each child gave us the greatest symbol of this faith in the future. They brought to us the eloquence of a people who, in surviving such suffering, asked only for the right to remember and be remembered, a people who did not permit themselves to descend into the pits of -- and quagmires of hatred, but lifted themselves instead, and with them, all of humankind, out of darkness up toward a time when hatred is no more and all nations and all people are as one.
We who had not suffered the tragedy of the Holocaust directly shared their grief and mourned for their victims. We, too, prayed for a better future and a better world where all peoples and all nations would come together in peace and defense of humanity.
Today, there is a spirit of reconciliation between the peoples of the allied nations and the people of Germany and even between the soldiers who fought each other on the battlefields of Europe. That spirit must grow and be strengthened.
As the people of Europe rebuilt their shattered lands, the survivors rebuilt their shattered lives, and they did so despite the searing pain. And we who are their fellow citizens have taken up their memories and tried to learn from them what we must do. No one has taught us more than Elie Wiesel. His life stands as a symbol. His life is testimony that the human spirit endures and prevails. Memory can fail us, for it can fade as the generations change. But Elie Wiesel has helped make the memory of the Holocaust eternal by preserving the story of the 6 million Jews in his works. Like the prophets, whose words guide us to this day, his works will teach humanity timeless lessons. He teaches about despair, but also about hope. He teaches about our capacity to do evil, but also about the possibility of courage and resistance and about our capacity to sacrifice for a higher good. He teaches about death. But in the end, he teaches about life.
Elie, we present you with this medal as an expression of our gratitude for your life's work.
In honoring Elie Wiesel, we thank him for a life that's dedicated to others. We pledge that he will never forget -- or that we will never forget that in many places of the world, the cancer of anti-Semitism still exists. Beyond our fervent hopes and our anguished remembrance, we must not forget our duty to those who perished, our duty to bring justice to those who perpetrated unspeakable deeds. And we must take action to root out the vestiges of anti-Semitism in America, to quash the violence-prone hate groups even before they can spread their venom and destruction. And let all of us, Jew and non-Jew alike, pledge ourselves today to the life of the Jewish dream -- to a time when war is no more, when all nations live in peace, when each man, woman and child lives in the dignity that God intended.
On behalf of your fellow citizens, now let me sign this proclamation commemorating Jewish Heritage Week.