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Public Statements

Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. MEEKS. I yield myself such time as I may consume.

I rise today in favor of H.R. 3001, the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Act. This bill will bestow the Congressional Gold Medal on a hero who is credited with saving thousands of lives during the Nazi occupation of Hungary in World War II. Raoul Wallenberg is one of the truly inspiring figures of the 20th century. Many prominent Americans owe their lives to Mr. Wallenberg and his heroic actions, including my friend and late colleague, Tom Lantos, and his lovely wife, Annette. Through the passage of this legislation, Congress can honor a true humanitarian for the sake of his family and the thousands of survivors who owe their lives to him.

Raoul Wallenberg, as my colleague has just said, was a Swedish special envoy to Budapest on a diplomatic mission established in collaboration with the American War Refugee Board and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee to initiate a rescue operation for Jews in Nazi-occupied Hungary. Over 150,000 Hungarian Jews had already been deported to Nazi death camps by the time Wallenberg arrived in Budapest. But through his ingenuity and even at times his bribing of others through the issuance of fake Swedish protective passes and sheltering in official Swedish diplomatic houses, Wallenberg unrelentingly sought to save Jews from Germans and their accomplices, risking his own life numerous times in the process, while there were others who were involved who gave their lives in the process.

During the Soviet siege of Budapest, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and was never heard from again. Wallenberg's ultimate fate is unknown, and awarding the Congressional Gold Medal during this centennial celebration of his birth is the best opportunity I believe we have to resolving the mystery about Raoul Wallenberg's ultimate fate.

When we have a true hero--one who inspires us to be the very best that we can, one who says that we're going to rise above those individuals who mean no good, one who says they will put their own lives at stake so that others may live--those are the individuals that we need to honor; those are the individuals we need to bring to light so that every child, every human being, knows of those great heroic feats.

Because indeed, Mr. Speaker, it is individuals like Raoul Wallenberg who will take us to centuries yet to come and bring us together as a human family. So, I'm honored here today to put forth this bill, and I'd like to thank the over-300 colleagues here on the House floor who have cosponsored this bill and especially my colleague from New York, Nan Hayworth, who has been absolutely a delight to work with. As we pursued this bill and working together on the floor in getting signatures and talking to our colleagues, I really enjoyed immensely working with Congresswoman Hayworth in bringing this bill to the floor.

I also want to thank the Raoul Wallenberg Centennial Celebration Commission, headed by Ezra Friedlander, and the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Lantos Foundation, the University of Michigan, and the Hungarian and Swedish ambassadors for all of their hard work on this legislation to honor Wallenberg's memory and to celebrate the innumerable individuals who live today because their relatives were saved through his efforts. I ask my colleagues to vote in favor of H.R. 3001 and award Raoul Wallenberg the Congressional Gold Medal.

I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. MEEKS. I just want to thank the chairman of the European subcommittee for recalling that great day we did have in Budapest at the statue of Raoul Wallenberg. It was a great moment and a solemn moment. When you think about Raoul Wallenberg and when you think about the over 300 Members of this body that are cosponsoring it, today what Raoul Wallenberg is doing is bringing us together. Yet today, Raoul Wallenberg as well, even here in the House as we look and work unanimously on this bill, is bringing people together from all parts of the world, from all kinds of backgrounds, saying that we are standing together for what is right and for a better tomorrow.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

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