George W. Bush photo

Remarks at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles

March 06, 2000

It is a special honor to be with you today, and to visit this place of remembrance and hope and vigilance. Here we remember the past - including its crimes and cruelties. Here, we imagine the future - as a place where intolerance and hatred have no place in the policies of government, or the souls of citizens.

I am pleased to be with friends of the Wiesenthal Center - people committed to the spread of justice and tolerance and people dedicated to a safe and secure Israel. I join you in this important cause.

All of you are supporting a great work. For more than a generation now, the Wiesenthal Center has fought against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. Not just here, but around the world.

More than 50 years ago, a member of the Nazi SS told Simon Wiesenthal that it wasn't worth telling the story of the death camps - because no one would ever believe such things were possible. Yet now we do not just believe, now we know. We know because Simon Wiesenthal and many others have preserved truths that must never be lost to memory, or sacrificed to revisionism.

Our century has revealed both the durability of human hate, and the durability of human hope. In the Holocaust, we saw unending hate and undying hope. Anti-Semitism. once destroyed the moral foundations of one of the most educated nations on earth. It is a fact that barbarism can appear even in the most outwardly civilized society. Tolerance can never be assumed. It must always be taught.

We must teach our children to respect people from an walks of life. We must teach our children to respect people whose skin is of a different color. We must teach our children to respect those whose ancestry or religion is different from their own, Finally, we must teach our children that we are one nation, one people, all American.

There is a contest of light and shadow in every nation, in every generation Intolerance is not merely a problem of the past Racism finds new targets, and reopens old wounds. Hate groups recruit on the Internet and warp the souls of children. We are called by conscience to set our hearts against all assaults on human dignity. You have answered that call - along with many other Americans.

There are two great pillars of tolerance in this country. One is the American tradition itself. The unbreakable guarantees of the Constitution. The echoing ideals of The Declaration of Independence. Our commitment to tolerance and equality under law emerges from the very nature of our country. That commitment has never been completely fulfilled, but it must always be pursued. For all its flaws, I believe our nation is chosen by God and commissioned by history to be a model to the world of justice and inclusion and diversity without division. These are American convictions. Defending them is America's calling. And they must be passed intact to America's children.

'The other pillar of tolerance is faith. The teaching of our tradition is simple and permanent: "Love your neighbor as yourself - Not just because this promotes the peace and good order of society. But because this is the proper way to treat human beings created in the image and likeness of God.

Many Americans, of many backgrounds, share the same conviction - We don't believe in tolerance in spite of our faith. We believe in tolerance because of our faith. And it leads us to condemn all forms of religious bigotry.

But a leader must do more than hold this conviction. He must give it voice - And he must give it force - That is my commitment to the people of this country - Every American must know they am equally American - no matter their culture, race or religion. And those who practice intimidation and violence will have a determined enemy in the president of the United States. This place bears the name of a man who has never tired in righting wrongs and seeking justice. It is monument to the power of truth over falsehood Your work is always urgent, and always unfinished. Thank you for your commitment, and for your welcome today.

George W. Bush, Remarks at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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