Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this afternoon in strong support of a House resolution to condemn the violent attack at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum yesterday and to honor the bravery and dedication of museum employees and security personnel. The House passed the resolution by a vote of 413 to 0. Below are the Speaker's remarks.
“When the news came to the Capitol of what had happened at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, we were shaken -- shaken to the core that this could possibly happen. The resolution today allows us to express some of the grief that we have and the strongest denunciation of the despicable hate crime perpetrated yesterday, and to express our strong support of the work of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“Some of us were there that rainy, rainy day in 1993 when the Holocaust Memorial was dedicated -- the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Elie Wiesel spoke to us so profoundly about what it meant, not only in terms of memory and never forgetting what happened in the Holocaust, but what our responsibility it is to the future at the time the Bosnian crisis was happening.
“And so, while the Holocaust Memorial Museum is about something that happened in the past, it is a memorial and a reminder to us about ridding our societies of these kinds of attitudes. So how ironic that this person, this individual, would go into that museum with hate in his heart, a gun in his hand, and kill this beautiful man, Stephen Johns, who really gave his life -- he guarded others with his life.
“And I'd like to take a moment to pay special tribute to Stephen Johns, whose life was cruelly taken yesterday. Stephen was known to his colleagues as ‘a soft-spoken, gentle giant.' Stephen loved his hometown football team, the Redskins, and he loved to travel across the United States. Sad to say -- well it was a happy moment for him, but sad that in such a short time, he had married and moved to Temple Hills, Maryland, just 10 minutes from his mother.
“Stephen died in the line of duty, doing his job to protect those who came to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Today, we honor his sacrifice and his service.
“In the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum -- anyone who's visited there knows -- there is a flame that burns in remembrance to all who died in the Holocaust. It lights the room over a coffin of earth gathered from the death camps, concentration camps, sites of mass execution and ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe, and from cemeteries of American and European soldiers who fought and died to defeat Nazi Germany.
“Engraved above that flame it says, from Deuteronomy (4:9): ‘Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and your children's children.'
“Today, we commit to telling our future generations the truths shared at the Holocaust Museum. This heinous act was committed at the entrance to sacred ground for us at the Holocaust Museum, and as I described, where some of the earth was gathered from.
“This is a severe blow to all of us who care about these issues, and I would include in that everyone in the Congress of the United States and in our great country, and those throughout the world who promise never to forget. So we commit never to forget. And we commit to continuing our work to build a world free of hatred.
“Again, I thank our colleagues for giving us the time to publicly mourn this horrible, horrible event, to extend our condolences to the family of that brave guard, and also to acknowledge that like Stephen Johns, our own Capitol Police, and many others who make this area safer for people to visit from all over the world. To make it safer for us to do our jobs here, make it safer for the press to cover us, make it safer for our staffs to work, to express our deep gratitude to them.
“For us, the names Gibson and Chestnut are forever emblazoned in our hearts. Two of those committed to guard the Capitol, whose lives were taken over 10 years ago. We will add to that list Stephen Johns and never forget the sacrifice he made and never forget our responsibility, to end the world of hatred.”