Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism
Remarks at the Swearing-in of Gregg Rickman as the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism
Secretary Condoleezza Rice
May 22, 2006
(4:04 p.m. EST)
SECRETARY RICE: Thank you very much. Thank you. It is a pleasure to be here to swear in Dr. Gregg Rickman as our Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism. I'm delighted also to welcome Gregg's family, his wife Sonia and their children Ira and Sam and Rachel who I met earlier in the anteroom and a special greeting to Gregg's parents Charlotte and Richard Rickman. Greg is going to serve as our first Anti-Semitism Special Envoy and this is a position that was created by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act which is a position that will now be housed in our Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
I want to recognize the seminal role of Congress in creating this position, especially Senator Voinovich. Thank you so much for joining us here and for your steady and consistent commitment to these important issues. I also want to thank Representatives Smith and Lantos who were unable to join us, but were instrumental in this legislation and also Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who has joined us today.
President Bush has said that defending freedom also means disrupting the evil of anti-Semitism. Today ethnic and religious differences are still viewed by some as a license to kill. And we are reminded of the sad history of humankind when prejudice and hatred turn violent against those who are simply different.
More than six decades after the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is not just an historical fact, however. It is a current event. Anti-Semitic hate crimes are on the rise still at home and abroad. And governments must take decisive action against the perpetrators of those crimes and new generations have to be inoculated against the dangerous bigotry that is instilled often through education in intolerance. That education in intolerance must be replaced by education in tolerance.
Gregg brings deep personal commitment to this mission. His father-in-law was a Holocaust survivor. And as a child, he heard his grandfather recount the horrors of the pogrom in Ukraine that took the lives of his very own family members. Gregg brings extensive professional experience on the Hill, working on Holocaust restitution and anti-Semitism issues. And he also served as the Director of Congressional Affairs for the Republican Jewish Coalition.
President Bush has pledged that America will always stand for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. Defending human dignity means defeating anti-Semitism. Gregg, you have no stronger supporters of this mission than President Bush and me. The men and women of the State Department will also be your strong supporters in this important mission. I'm delighted that you have taken it on. I know you will perform it well with commitment and dedication and now I'm pleased to administer the Oath of Office.
(The Oath of Office was administered.) (Applause.)
MR. RICKMAN: Thank you, Madame Secretary. I want to thank the President and you for this great honor and appointing me to serve in this important new position. I am honored to be assuming this position in the month that President Bush has declared for the first time to be Jewish American Heritage month. It must be clear to all that there is no place in the world for this most ancient form of prejudice and bigotry. I want you to know that I will do all that I can to make it clear that in order for freedom and democracy to prevail, anti-Semitism in all its forms must be prevented.
One important way is through education aimed at instilling democratic values, including tolerance for those of all religions. If we have learned any lessons from the past, it is that anti-Semitism left unchecked results in disaster. I was taught this much by my grandfather who fled the pogroms and revolution in the Russian Empire in 1919. He arrived in the United States a few years later an orphan and a stranger in a foreign land. Yet it was this country that gave him a safe haven. It is because of this fact that I have always felt the need to give something back to my country in gratitude. And it is this dedication that I bring to this position.
I want to thank Senator Voinovich and Representative Wasserman Schultz for attending today, State Department officials, members of the community and friends who are all here with us today. And of course I want to thank my wife Sonia and our three children as well as my parents, Charlotte and Richard, for all of their love and support.
Also, I've always admired the talented men and women who serve in the State Department and I look forward to joining them now. Again, Madame Secretary, thank you for the honor to serve you, the Administration and our great nation in this cause. Thank you. (Applause.)