Remarks by the Second Gentleman at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts

April 11, 2023

[As prepared for delivery.]


And thank you to my friend Sophia Bush, the John F. Kennedy Library, Jack and Tatiana Schlossberg, and National Endowment for the Arts for your partnership.

Ambassador Rashad Hussain, I had the pleasure of traveling with you to Poland and Germany to speak about this very issue of combating hate. Thank you for your leadership in this space and your tireless work within the Biden-Harris administration and thank you to all of the panelists who have joined us this evening.

I grew up in a very typical Jewish family. I was born in Brooklyn, we moved to New Jersey, went to Temple Shalom, got bar mitzvah'd, attended Jewish summer camp, and then my dad moved our family to Southern California.

I became a lawyer. One of the reasons I became a lawyer was because I hated bullies and I stood for "Tzedek," justice – standing up for others and fighting inequality.

Throughout my career, what I learned was that in order for us to achieve true equality, to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table, to push back against hatred and bigotry, we all must build coalitions and work together.

So, how do we do this?

We must speak out against antisemitism and hate of all kinds and call out loudly those who don't. There must be consequences for those who engage in acts of antisemitism and hatred.

We must educate others on the horrors of the past and tell the stories of our ancestors to ensure that history does not repeat itself. The Holocaust is real, it happened, and there are no two sides to this. But we must also tell the story of who we are as people, within the faith we practice, and spread the joy of that faith.

We know there is disinformation and misinformation being spread about who we are. Dangerous lies and tropes that can sometimes lead to violence. We must call out cowards in leadership who know better and just stay silent. It's not acceptable. And we must fight these lies with truth.

We can also use things that bring us together. We can use the arts and humanities to help us prevent ideological extremes and build human connections. We can use the power of food to convene people and strengthen communities.

And most importantly, we can fight hate with love. In the famous words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate can't drive out hate; only love can do that."

As Second Gentleman, I have made combating hate one of my top priorities, while also encouraging love and compassion towards one another. I've also taken the time to learn about different cultures, faiths, and backgrounds.

I hosted the first-ever Vesak celebration in the White House and celebrated the contributions of Buddhist communities all over the world.?

I've held interfaith discussions with students at our home and with faith leaders in different countries to build relationships, break down stereotypes, and combat prejudices.

I've visited Auschwitz-Birkenau, Holocaust museums, and most recently, Cape Coast Slave Castle in Ghana with my wife, the vice president. The things that you see there will change you forever.

That is why the arts and humanities, museums and monuments are so important. They are spaces for reflection, education, and inspiration.

They build empathy, strengthen mutual understanding, and remind us of the norms and agreements that we rely on to care for one another.

From our common traditions, to our common history, to our common values, there is more that unites us than divides us.

We must not forget the joy that also comes from our celebrating our faith, celebrating our cultures, and celebrating our contributions to this great nation.

I love being Jewish. And I'm proud to be openly living as a Jew without fear. It's my identity, and I refuse to let anyone take that away from me.

That is what makes America special. It is a place where everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or religion can live freely, openly, and proudly as they are. And we need to make sure it is safe for all.

And that's why President Biden, Vice President Harris, and our entire administration is committed to combating hate in all its forms and promoting tolerance and inclusiveness, and to making sure it can be done safely.

I am looking forward to working with you all to not only combat hate but to remind others of the joy of religion, and of what is possible when we all work together.

Thank you.

Doug Emhoff, Remarks by the Second Gentleman at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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