US & Australian Commanders-in-Chief Deplore Sexual Assaults

On May 7, President Obama spoke out against sexual assault in the military:

The bottom line is: I have no tolerance for this. I expect consequences. So I don’t just want more speeches or awareness programs or training, but ultimately folks look the other way. If we find out somebody’s engaging in this, they’ve got to be held accountable – prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.

Stars and Stripes reports that Navy Judge Commander Marcus Fulton criticized the President as Commander-in-Chief for having made comments that might “unduly influence any potential sentencing.”

I could not disagree more.

We need more leaders like Australia’s Commander-in-Chief (see video below) who are willing to take a strong moral stand against not just sexual assault but also sexual harassment and sexual degradation. Each defendant is innocent until proven guilty, but once found guilty there should be no question about the seriousness of the charges leveled against them. If the military justice system does not understand this, then Congress should give the criminal justice system responsibility in this matter.

Chief of Australian Army message regarding unacceptable behavior

Message from the Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison to the Australian Army following the announcement on Thursday, 13 June 2013 of civilian police and Defence investigations into allegations of unacceptable behaviour by Army members.
Military sexual assault survivor Trina McDonald delivers petition to Congress

Trina McDonald-who survived multiple sexual assaults while serving in the U.S. Navy-traveled to Washington, D.C., to deliver more than 215,000 signatures from her MoveOn.org petition and a CourageCampaign.org petition to Congress. Trina is calling on Congress to move the prosecution of military sexual assaults out of the chain of command. This change would make it safer for survivors like her to report their assaults.

Presidential Medal of Freedom

Today President Obama presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to following laureats:

  • Secretary Madeleine Albright,
  • Attorney General John Doar,
  • Musician Bob Dylan,
  • Dr. William Foege,
  • Senator John Glenn,
  • Prof. Gordon Hirabayashi,
  • Dolores Huerta,
  • Jan Karski,
  • Juliette Gordon Low,
  • Author Toni Morrison,
  • Israeli President Shimon Peres (*),
  • Justice John Paul Stevens, and
  • Coach Pat Summitt.

(Shimon Peres was not able to attend yesterday, so his medal will be awarded in a separate ceremony next month.)

Transcript after the jump.

Remarks by President Barack Obama

Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Everybody, please have a seat, and welcome to the White House.  It is an extraordinary pleasure to be here with all of you to present this year’s Medals of Freedom.  And I have to say, just looking around the room, this is a packed house, which is a testament to how cool this group is.  (Laughter.)  Everybody wanted to check them out.

This is the highest civilian honor this country can bestow, which is ironic, because nobody sets out to win it.  No one ever picks up a guitar, or fights a disease, or starts a movement, thinking, “You know what, if I keep this up, in 2012, I could get a medal in the White House from a guy named Barack Obama.”  (Laughter.)  That wasn’t in the plan.

But that’s exactly what makes this award so special.  Every one of today’s honorees is blessed with an extraordinary amount of talent.  All of them are driven.  But, yes, we could fill this room many times over with people who are talented and driven.  What sets these men and women apart is the incredible impact they have had on so many people — not in short, blinding bursts, but steadily, over the course of a lifetime.

Together, the honorees on this stage, and the ones who couldn’t be here, have moved us with their words; they have inspired us with their actions.  They’ve enriched our lives and they’ve changed our lives for the better.  Some of them are household names; others have labored quietly out of the public eye.  Most of them may never fully appreciate the difference they’ve made or the influence that they’ve had, but that’s where our job comes in.  It’s our job to help let them know how extraordinary their impact has been on our lives.  And so today we present this amazing group with one more accolade for a life well led, and that’s the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

So I’m going to take an opportunity — I hope you guys don’t mind — to brag about each of you, starting with Madeleine Albright.


Secretary of State Madeleine Albright

Usually, Madeleine does the talking.  (Laughter.)  Once in a while, she lets her jewelry do the talking.  (Laughter.)  When Saddam Hussein called her a “snake,” she wore a serpent on her lapel — (laughter) — the next time she visited Baghdad.  When Slobodan Milosevic referred to her as a “goat,” a new pin appeared in her collection.

As the first woman to serve as America’s top diplomat, Madeleine’s courage and toughness helped bring peace to the Balkans and paved the way for progress in some of the most unstable corners of the world.  And as an immigrant herself — the granddaughter of Holocaust victims who fled her native Czechoslovakia as a child — Madeleine brought a unique perspective to the job.  This is one of my favorite stories.  Once, at a naturalization ceremony, an Ethiopian man came up to her and said, “Only in America can a refugee meet the Secretary of State.”  And she replied, “Only in America can a refugee become the Secretary of State.”  (Laughter.)  We’re extraordinarily honored to have Madeleine here.  And obviously, I think it’s fair to say I speak for one of your successors who is so appreciative of the work you did and the path that you laid.

Attorney General John Doar

It was a scorching hot day in 1963, and Mississippi was on the verge of a massacre.  The funeral procession for Medgar Evers had just disbanded, and a group of marchers was throwing rocks at a line of equally defiant and heavily-armed policemen.  And suddenly, a white man in shirtsleeves, hands raised, walked towards the protestors and talked them into going home peacefully.  And that man was John Doar.  He was the face of the Justice Department in the South.  He was proof that the federal government was listening.  And over the years, John escorted James Meredith to the University of Mississippi.  He walked alongside the Selma-to-Montgomery March.  He laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  In the words of John Lewis, “He gave [civil rights workers] a reason not to give up on those in power.”  And he did it by never giving up on them.  And I think it’s fair to say that I might not be here had it not been for his work.

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan started out singing other people’s songs.  But, as he says, “There came a point where I had to write what I wanted to say, because what I wanted to say, nobody else was writing.”  So born in Hibbing, Minnesota — a town, he says, where “you couldn’t be a rebel — it was too cold” — (laughter) — Bob moved to New York at age 19.  By the time he was 23, Bob’s voice, with its weight, its unique, gravelly power was redefining not just what music sounded like, but the message it carried and how it made people feel.  Today, everybody from Bruce Springsteen to U2 owes Bob a debt of gratitude.  There is not a bigger giant in the history of American music.  All these years later, he’s still chasing that sound, still searching for a little bit of truth.  And I have to say that I am a really big fan.  (Laughter.)  


Dr. Bill Foege

In the 1960s, more than 2 million people died from smallpox every year.  Just over a decade later, that number was zero — 2 million to zero, thanks, in part, to Dr. Bill Foege.  As a young medical missionary working in Nigeria, Bill helped develop a vaccination strategy that would later be used to eliminate smallpox from the face of the Earth.  And when that war was won, he moved on to other diseases, always trying to figure out what works.  In one remote Nigerian village, after vaccinating 2,000 people in a single day, Bill asked the local chief how he had gotten so many people to show up.  And the chief explained that he had told everyone to come see — to “come to the village and see the tallest man in the world.”  (Laughter.)  Today, that world owes that really tall man a great debt of gratitude.


Senator and Astronaut John Glenn

On the morning that John Glenn blasted off into space, America stood still.  And for half an hour, the phones stopped ringing in Chicago police headquarters, and New York subway drivers offered a play-by-play account over the loudspeakers.  President Kennedy interrupted a breakfast with congressional leaders and joined 100 million TV viewers to hear the famous
words, “Godspeed, John Glenn.”  The first American to orbit the Earth, John Glenn became a hero in every sense of the word, but he didn’t stop there serving his country.  As a senator, he found new ways to make a difference.  And on his second trip into space at age 77, he defied the odds once again.  But he reminds everybody, don’t tell him he’s lived a historic life.  He says, “Are living.”  He’ll say, “Don’t put it in the past tense.”  He’s still got a lot of stuff going on.

Professor Gordon Hirabayashi

Gordon Hirabayashi knew what it was like to stand alone.  As a student at the University of Washington, Gordon was one of only three Japanese Americans to defy the executive order that forced thousands of families to leave their homes, their jobs, and their civil rights behind and move to internment camps during World War II.  He took his case all the way to the Supreme Court, and he lost.  And it would be another 40 years before that decision was reversed, giving Asian Americans everywhere a small measure of justice.  In Gordon’s words, “It takes a crisis to tell us that unless citizens are willing to standup for the [Constitution], it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.”  And this country is better off because of citizens like him who are willing to stand up.

Dolores Huerta

Similarly, when Cesar Chavez sat Dolores Huerta down at his kitchen table and told her they should start a union, she thought he was joking.  She was a single mother of seven children, so she obviously didn’t have a lot of free time.  But Dolores had been an elementary school teacher and remembered seeing children come to school hungry and without shoes.  So in the end, she agreed — and workers everywhere are glad that she did.  Without any negotiating experience, Dolores helped lead a worldwide grape boycott that forced growers to agree to some of the country’s first farm worker contracts.  And ever since, she has fought to give more people a seat at the table.  “Don’t wait to be invited,” she says, “Step in there.”  And on a personal note, Dolores was very gracious when I told her I had stolen her slogan, Si, se puede.  Yes, we can.  (Laughter.)  Knowing her, I’m pleased that she let me off easy — (laughter) — because Dolores does not play.  (Laughter.)


Jan Karski

For years, Jan Karski’s students at Georgetown University knew he was a great professor; what they didn’t realize was he was also a hero.  Fluent in four languages, possessed of a photographic memory, Jan served as a courier for the Polish resistance during the darkest days of World War II.  Before one trip across enemy lines, resistance fighters told him that Jews were being murdered on a massive scale, and smuggled him into the Warsaw Ghetto and a Polish death camp to see for himself.  Jan took that information to President Franklin Roosevelt, giving one of the first accounts of the Holocaust and imploring to the world to take action.  It was decades before Jan was ready to tell his story.  By then, he said, “I don’t need courage anymore.  So I teach compassion.”


Girl Scouts in attendance at the White House as President Obama honored Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low. Photo: Daniel Loeb (Philadelphia Jewish Voice)

Juliette Gordon Low

Growing up in Georgia in the late 1800s, Juliette Gordon Low was not exactly typical.  She flew airplanes.  She went swimming.  She experimented with electricity for fun.  (Laughter.)  And she recognized early on that in order to keep up with the changing times, women would have to be prepared.  So at age 52, after meeting the founder of the Boy Scouts in England, Juliette came home and called her cousin and said, “I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world.  And we’re going to start it tonight!”  A century later, almost 60 million Girl Scouts have gained leadership skills and self-confidence through the organization that she founded.  They include CEOs, astronauts, my own Secretary of State.  And from the very beginning, they have also included girls of different races and faiths and abilities, just the way that Juliette would have wanted it.

Toni  Morrison

Toni Morrison — she is used to a little distraction.  As a single mother working at a publishing company by day, she would carve out a little time in the evening to write, often with her two sons pulling on her hair and tugging at her earrings.  Once, a baby spit up on her tablet so she wrote around it.  (Laughter.)  Circumstances may not have been ideal, but the words that came out were magical.  Toni Morrison’s prose brings us that kind of moral and emotional intensity that few writers ever attempt.  From “Song of Solomon” to “Beloved,” Toni reaches us deeply, using a tone that is lyrical, precise, distinct, and inclusive.  She believes that language “arcs toward the place where meaning might lie.”  The rest of us are lucky to be following along for the ride.


Justice John Paul Stevens

During oral argument, Justice John Paul Stevens often began his line of questioning with a polite, “May I interrupt?” or “May I ask a question?”  You can imagine the lawyers would say, “okay” — (laughter) — after which he would, just as politely, force a lawyer to stop dancing around and focus on the most important issues in the case.  And that was his signature style:  modest, insightful, well-prepared, razor-sharp.  He is the third-longest serving Justice in the history of the Court.  And Justice Stevens applied, throughout his career, his clear and graceful manner to the defense of individual rights and the rule of law, always favoring a pragmatic solution over an ideological one.  Ever humble, he would happily comply when unsuspecting tourists asked him to take their picture in front of the Court.  (Laughter.)  And at his vacation home in Florida, he was John from Arlington, better known for his world-class bridge game than his world-changing judicial opinions.  Even in his final days on the bench, Justice Stevens insisted he was still “learning on the job.”  But in the end, we are the ones who have learned from him.

Pat Summitt

When a doctor first told Pat Summitt she suffered from dementia, she almost punched him.  When a second doctor advised her to retire, she responded, “Do you know who you’re dealing with here?”  (Laughter.)  Obviously, they did not.  As Pat says, “I can fix a tractor, mow hay, plow a field, chop tobacco, fire a barn, and call the cows.  But what I’m really known for is winning.”  In 38 years at Tennessee, she racked up eight national championships and more than 1,000 wins — understand, this is more than any college coach, male or female, in the history of the NCAA.  And more importantly, every player that went through her program has either graduated or is on her way to a degree.  That’s why anybody who feels sorry for Pat will find themselves on the receiving end of that famous glare, or she might punch you.  (Laughter.)  She’s still getting up every day and doing what she does best, which is teaching.  “The players,” she says, “are my best medicine.”  

Israeli President Shimon Peres

Our final honoree is not here — Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, who has done more for the cause of peace in the Middle East than just about anybody alive.  I’ll be hosting President Peres for a dinner here at the White House next month, and we’ll be presenting him with his medal and honoring his incredible contributions to the state of Israel and the world at that time.  So I’m looking forward to welcoming him.  And if it’s all right with you, I will save my best lines about him for that occasion.

So these are the recipients of the 2012 Medals of Freedom.  And just on a personal note, I had a chance to see everybody in the back.  What’s wonderful about these events for me is so many of these people are my heroes individually.  I know how they impacted my life.

I remember reading “Song of Solomon” when I was a kid and not just trying to figure out how to write, but also how to be and how to think.  And I remember in college listening to Bob Dylan and my world opening up because he captured something that — about this country that was so vital.  And I think about Dolores Huerta, reading about her when I was starting off as an organizer.

Everybody on this stage has marked my life in profound ways.  And I was telling — somebody like Pat Summitt — when I think about my two daughters, who are tall and gifted, and knowing that because of folks like Coach Summitt they’re standing up straight and diving after loose balls and feeling confident and strong, then I understand that the impact that these people have had extends beyond me.  It will continue for generations to come.  What an extraordinary honor to be able to say thank you to all of them for the great work that they have done on behalf of this country and on behalf of the world.

So it is now my great honor to present them with a small token of our appreciation.  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Presidential Medal of Freedom citations: Madeleine Korbel Albright.  Madeleine Korbel Albright broke barriers and left an indelible mark on the world as the first female Secretary of State in the United States’ history.  Through her consummate diplomacy and steadfast democratic ideals, Secretary Albright advanced peace in the Middle East, nuclear arms control, justice in the Balkans, and human rights around the world.  With unwavering leadership and continued engagement with the global community, she continues her noble pursuit of freedom and dignity for all people.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think this goes very well with your broach.  (Laughter.)

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  John Doar.  As African Americans strove for justice, John Doar led federal efforts to defend equality and enforce civil rights.  Risking his life to confront the injustices around him, he prevented a violent riot, obtained convictions for the killings of civil rights activists, and stood by the first African American student at the University of Mississippi on his first day of class.  During pivotal moments in the Civil Rights Movement and in the troubled times of the Watergate scandal, John Doar fought to protect the core values of liberty, equality and democracy that have made America a leader among nations.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

MILITARY AIDE:  Bill Foege.

THE PRESIDENT:  He is pretty tall.  (Laughter.)

MILITARY AIDE:  A distinguished physician and epidemiologist, Bill Foege helped lead a campaign to eradicate smallpox that stands among medicine’s greatest success stories.  At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Carter Center, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he has taken on humanity’s most intractable public health challenges from infectious diseases to child survival and development.  Bill Foege has driven decades of progress to safeguard the well-being of all, and he has inspired a generation of leaders in the fight for a healthier world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Glenn has set a peerless example through his service to our nation.  As a Marine Corps pilot and the first American to orbit the Earth, he sparked our passions for ingenuity and adventure and lifted humanity’s ambitions into the expanses of space.  In the United States Senate, he worked tirelessly to ensure all Americans had the opportunity to reach for limitless dreams.  Whether by advancing legislation to limit the spread of nuclear weapons or by becoming the oldest person ever to visit space, John Glenn’s example has moved us all to look to new horizons with drive and optimism.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Susan Carnahan, accepting on behalf of her husband Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi.  In his open defiance of discrimination against Japanese Americans during World War II, Gordon Kiyoshi Hirabayashi demanded our nation live up to its founding principles.  Imprisoned for ignoring curfew and refusing to register for internment camps, he took his case to the Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Refusing to abandon his belief in an America that stands for fundamental human rights, he pursued justice until his conviction was overturned in 1987.  Gordon Hirabayashi’s legacy reminds us that patriotism is rooted not in ethnicity, but in our shared ideals.  And his example will forever call on us to defend the liberty of all our citizens.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta.  One of America’s great labor and civil rights icons, Dolores Clara Fernandez Huerta has devoted her life to advocating for marginalized communities.  Alongside Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the United Farm Workers of America and fought to secure basic rights for migrant workers and their families, helping save thousands from neglect and abuse.  Dolores Huerta has never lost faith in the power of community organizing, and through the Dolores Huerta Foundation, she continues to train and mentor new activists to walk the streets into history.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Adam Daniel Rotfeld, former Polish foreign minister accepting on behalf of Jan Karski.  As a young officer in the Polish Underground, Jan Karski was among the first to relay accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  A witness to atrocity in the Warsaw Ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, he repeatedly crossed enemy line to document the face of genocide, and courageously voiced tragic truths all the way to President Roosevelt.  Jan Karski illuminated one of the darkest chapters of history, and his heroic intervention on behalf of the innocent will never be forgotten.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Richard Platt, accepting on behalf of his great aunt, Juliette Gordon Low.  An artist, athlete and trailblazer for America’s daughters, Juliette Gordon Low founded an organization to teach young women self-reliance and resourcefulness.  A century later, during the “Year of the Girl,” the Girl Scouts’ more than 3 million members are leaders in their communities and are translating new skills into successful careers.  Americans of all backgrounds continue to draw inspiration from Juliette Gordon Low’s remarkable vision, and we celebrate her dedication to empowering girls everywhere.

(The medal is presented.  Applause.)

Toni Morrison.  The first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize, Toni Morrison is one of our nation’s most distinguished storytellers.  She has captivated readers through lyrical prose that depicts the complexities of a people and challenges our concepts of race and gender.  Her works are hallmarks of the American literary tradition, and the United States proudly honors her for her nursing of souls and strengthening the character of our union.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

John Paul Stevens.  From the Navy to the bench, John Paul Stevens has devoted himself to service to our nation.  After earning a Bronze Star in World War II, Stevens returned home to pursue a career in law.  As an attorney, he became a leading practitioner of anti-trust law.  And as a Supreme Court Justice, he dedicated his long and distinguished tenure to applying our Constitution with fidelity and independence.  His integrity, humility, and steadfast commitment to the rule of law have fortified the noble vision of our nation’s founders.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Pat Summitt.  Pat Summitt is an unparalleled figure in collegiate sports.  Over 38 seasons, she proudly led the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers to 32 SEC tournament and regular season championships and eight national titles, becoming the all-time winningest coach in NCAA basketball history.  On the court, Coach Summitt inspired young women across our country to shoot even higher in pursuit of their dreams.  Off the court, she has inspired us all by turning her personal struggle into a public campaign to combat Alzheimer’s disease.  Pat Summitt’s strength and character exemplify all that is best about athletics in America.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

Bob Dylan.  A modern-day troubadour, Bob Dylan established himself as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.  The rich poetry of his lyrics opened up new possibilities for popular song and inspired generations.  His melodies have brought ancient traditions into the modern age.  More than 50 years after his career began, Bob Dylan remains an eminent voice in our national conversation and around the world.

(The medal is presented.)  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Can everybody please stand and give a rousing applause to our Medal of Freedom winners?  (Applause.)

Well, we could not be prouder of all of them.  We could not be more grateful to all of them.  You have had an impact on all of us, and I know that you will continue to have an impact on all of us.  So thank you for being here.  Thank you for putting yourself through White House ceremonies — (laughter) — which are always full of all kinds of protocol.


White House Reception. Photo: Daniel Loeb (Philadelphia Jewish Voice)

Fortunately, we also have a reception afterwards.  I hear the food around here is pretty good.  (Laughter.)  So I look forward to all of you having a chance to stay and mingle, and again, thank you again, to all of you.  (Applause.)

Albright, Karski, Peres Among President Medal of Freedom Recipients

President Barack Obama named thirteen recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.  The Medal of Freedom is the Nation’s highest civilian honor, presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.  The awards will be presented at the White House in late spring. President Obama said,

These extraordinary honorees come from different backgrounds and different walks of life, but each of them has made a lasting contribution to the life of our Nation.  They’ve challenged us, they’ve inspired us, and they’ve made the world a better place.  I look forward to recognizing them with this award.

The following individuals will be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom:

  • Secretary Madeleine Albright,
  • Attorney General John Doar,
  • Bob Dylan,
  • Dr. William Foege,
  • Senator John Glenn,
  • Prof. Gordon Hirabayashi,
  • Dolores Huerta,
  • Jan Karski,
  • Juliette Gordon Low,
  • Toni Morrison,
  • Israeli President Shimon Peres,
  • Justice John Paul Stevens, and
  • Pat Summitt.

Biographies follow the jump.

Madeleine Albright
From 1997 to 2001, under President William J. Clinton, Albright served as the 64th United States Secretary of State, the first woman to hold that position.  During her tenure, she worked to enlarge NATO and helped lead the Alliance’s campaign against terror and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, pursued peace in the Middle East and Africa, sought to reduce the dangerous spread of nuclear weapons, and was a champion of democracy, human rights, and good governance across the globe.  From 1993 to 1997, she was America’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.  Since leaving office, she founded the Albright Stonebridge Group and Albright Capital Management, returned to teaching at Georgetown University, and authored five books.  Albright chairs the National Democratic Institute and is President of the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation.

John Doar
Doar was a legendary public servant and leader of federal efforts to protect and enforce civil rights during the 1960s.  He served as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.  In that capacity, he was instrumental during many major civil rights crises, including singlehandedly preventing a riot in Jackson, Mississippi, following the funeral of slain civil rights leader Medgar Evars in 1963.  Doar brought notable civil rights cases, including obtaining convictions for the 1964 killings of three civil rights workers in Neshoba County, Mississippi, and leading the effort to enforce the right to vote and implement the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  He later served as Special Counsel to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary as it investigated the Watergate scandal and considered articles of impeachment against President Nixon.  Doar continues to practice law at Doar Rieck Kaley & Mack in New York.

Bob Dylan
One of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century, Dylan released his first album in 1962.  Known for his rich and poetic lyrics, his work had considerable influence on the civil rights movement of the 1960s and has had significant impact on American culture over the past five decades.  He has won 11 Grammys, including a lifetime achievement award.  He was named a Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Art et des Lettres and has received a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation.  Dylan was awarded the 2009 National Medal of Arts.  He has written more than 600 songs, and his songs have been recorded more than 3,000 times by other artists.  He continues recording and touring around the world today.

William Foege
A physician and epidemiologist, Foege helped lead the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s.  He was appointed Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1977 and, with colleagues, founded the Task Force for Child Survival in 1984.  Foege became Executive Director of The Carter Center in 1986 and continues to serve the organization as a Senior Fellow.  He helped shape the global health work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and remains a champion of a wide array of issues, including child survival and development, injury prevention, and preventative medicine.  Foege’s leadership has contributed significantly to increased awareness and action on global health issues, and his enthusiasm, energy, and effectiveness in these endeavors have inspired a generation of leaders in public health.

John Glenn
Glenn is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States Senator.  In 1962, he was the third American in space and the first American to orbit the Earth.  After retiring from the Marine Corps, Glenn was elected to the U.S. Senate in Ohio in 1974.  He was an architect and sponsor of the 1978 Nonproliferation Act and served as Chairman of the Senate Government Affairs committee from 1978 until 1995.  In 1998, Glenn became the oldest person to visit space at the age of 77.  He retired from the Senate in 1999.  Glenn is a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal and the Congressional Space Medal of Honor.

Gordon Hirabayashi
Hirabayashi openly defied the forced relocation and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.  As an undergraduate at the University of Washington, he refused the order to report for evacuation to an internment camp, instead turning himself in to the FBI to assert his belief that these practices were racially discriminatory.  Consequently, he was convicted by a U.S. Federal District Court in Seattle of defying the exclusion order and violating curfew.  Hirabayashi appealed his conviction all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled against him in 1943.  Following World War II and his time in prison, Hirabayashi obtained his doctoral degree in sociology and became a professor.  In 1987, his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.  Hirabayashi died on January 2, 2012.

Dolores Huerta
Huerta is a civil rights, workers, and women’s advocate. With Cesar Chavez, she co-founded the National Farmworkers Association in 1962, which later became the United Farm Workers of America.  Huerta has served as a community activist and a political organizer, and was influential in securing the passage of California’s Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975, and disability insurance for farmworkers in California.  In 2002, she founded the Dolores Huerta Foundation, an organization dedicated to developing community organizers and national leaders.  In 1998, President Clinton awarded her the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights.

Jan Karski
Karski served as an officer in the Polish Underground during World War II and carried among the first eye-witness accounts of the Holocaust to the world.  He worked as a courier, entering the Warsaw ghetto and the Nazi Izbica transit camp, where he saw first-hand the atrocities occurring under Nazi occupation.  Karski later traveled to London to meet with the Polish government-in-exile and with British government officials.  He subsequently traveled to the United States and met with President Roosevelt.  Karski published Story of a Secret State, earned a Ph.D at Georgetown University, and became a professor at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service.  Born in 1914, Karski became a U.S. citizen in 1954 and died in 2000.

Juliette Gordon Low
Born in 1860, Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912.  The organization strives to teach girls self-reliance and resourcefulness.  It also encourages girls to seek fulfillment in the professional world and to become active citizens in their communities.  Since 1912, the Girl Scouts has grown into the largest educational organization for girls and has had over 50 million members.  Low died in 1927.  This year, the Girl Scouts celebrate their 100th Anniversary, calling 2012 “The Year of the Girl.”


Toni Morrison
One of our nation’s most celebrated novelists, Morrison is renowned for works such as Song of Solomon, Jazz, and Beloved, for which she won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.  When she became the first African American woman to win a Nobel Prize in 1993, Morrison’s citation captured her as an author “who in novels characterized by visionary force and poetic import, gives life to an essential aspect of American reality.”  She created the Princeton Atelier at Princeton University to convene artists and students.  Morrison continues to write today.

Shimon Peres
An ardent advocate for Israel’s security and for peace, Shimon Peres was elected the ninth President of Israel in 2007.  First elected to the Knesset in 1959, he has served in a variety of positions throughout the Israeli government, including in twelve Cabinets as Foreign Minister, Minister of Defense, and Minister of Transport and Communications.  Peres served as Prime Minister from 1984-1986 and 1995-1996.  Along with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, Peres won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize for his work as Foreign Minister during the Middle East peace talks that led to the Oslo Accords. Through his life and work, he has strengthened the unbreakable bonds between Israel and the United States.

John Paul Stevens
Stevens served as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1975 to 2010, when he retired as the third longest-serving Justice in the Court’s history.  Known for his independent, pragmatic and rigorous approach to judging, Justice Stevens and his work have left a lasting imprint on the law in areas such as civil rights, the First Amendment, the death penalty, administrative law, and the separation of powers.  He was nominated to the Supreme Court by President Gerald Ford, and previously served as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.  Stevens is a veteran of World War II, in which he served as a naval intelligence officer and was awarded the Bronze Star.

Pat Summitt
In addition to accomplishing an outstanding career as the all-time winningest leader among all NCAA basketball coaches, Summitt has taken the University of Tennessee to more Final Four appearances than any other coach and has the second best record of NCAA Championships in basketball.  She has received numerous awards, including being named Naismith Women’s Collegiate Coach of the Century.  Off the court, she has been a spokesperson against Alzheimer’s.  The Pat Summitt Foundation will make grants to nonprofits to provide education and awareness, support to patients and families, and research to prevent, cure and ultimately eradicate early onset dementia, Alzheimer’s type.  

Reactions to the Tucson Tragedy

Announcement on the Pima County Republican website promoting an event last June organized by Republican challenger Jesse Kelly. There is nothing wrong with holding a gun-themed campaign event, but the way they worded the ad is just sick and encourages borderline personalities to engage in this kind of violence.

Bonnie Squires reached out to a number of Jewish leaders for their comments on the tragic shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and nineteen other people who were shot outside a supermarket in Tucson, Arizona.  

Here are their comments.

Betsy R. Sheerr,  former President of JAC-PAC, a pro-choice, pro-Israel advocacy organization:

I’ve had the privilege of knowing Congresswoman Giffords since she first ran for office six years ago. Even then, we knew were in the presence of a rising star: knowledgeable, passionate about public service, unafraid to take a bold stand politically, and genuinely warm and approachable. Supporting her candidacy has been gratifying: she is a devoted Member of Congress and a thoughtful, bright woman.

This tragic shooting is an affront to all Americans. Perhaps, just perhaps, it will shock our country into reexamining our accepted standards of civility and the ways we permit extremism and hatred to fester in our midst.

Pennsylvania State Representation Josh Shapiro (D-Abington and Upper Dublin)

The attack on Rep. Giffords was an attack against all who serve and our democracy. My thoughts and prayers go to each of those injured and the families of those slain.  

Our country was founded on the promise and hope of words from common people. We need to restore a sense of civility and purpose in our public discourse by encouraging all points of view be heard and consensus be sought.  

Marcia Balonick and Gail Yamner, Executive Director and President of the Jewish Women’s Political Action Committee (JACPAC)

Yesterday Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), was shot while at an event known as “Congress-on-your-Corner” in a grocery store parking lot in Tucson, AZ. Eighteen other people, including six members of her staff, were also shot. There were six fatalities, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old child. Giffords survived surgery at University Medical Center in Tucson. Although she is in critical condition, her surgeon stated he is as “optimistic about her recovery as it is possible to be” given the extent of her injuries.  

The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords has caused shock and dismay in many quarters. One of 27 Jewish members of Congress, she is a special friend to JAC. Marcia Balonick, executive director, said the JAC contingent that attended the Congressional swearing-in ceremonies on Wednesday attended a reception in her honor. “I met and spoke with her mother and we talked about how special she is. Her mother told me how lucky she was to have such a wonderful daughter and that life was ‘always an adventure with Gabby.’ The attempted murder of any member of Congress would be tragic to me, but this is personal.”    

In 2009 Giffords spoke for JAC at the Detroit chapter’s membership event. She was extremely well received. Lisa Lis, chair of that event, also considers the shooting a personal matter. “This is truly heartbreaking. She is a bright star in the Congress, passionate about bringing positive changes to the country. When she spoke at our meeting, we were so impressed by her dedication to public service. She was genuinely approachable and touched everyone’s heart.”

Gabrielle Giffords is a positive force on issues of concern to JAC. She is a staunch advocate for Israel, reproductive rights and separation of religion and state. Her door is always open to JAC and the PAC’s relationship with her is very close.

She stood on principle when it came to health care reform even though it could have cost her her re-election. As a member of the Armed Services committee, she is well respected and well liked even by her political opponents. Gail Yamner, JAC President, said “You cannot help but like her. She is a warm, caring woman who wants only to serve her country. She is an incredible woman who believes in an America that is for everyone.”

We do not fully know the shooter’s motivation, but Arizona’s laws that permit easy access to guns make it too easy to commit a heinous crime such as this one. His violent act is likely to have a chilling effect on the public’s access to elected officials. American democracy is ill-served by a violent gun culture and by security barriers erected between the people and their government. Neither is consistent with Gabby’s modus operandi.

The shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is a personal affront, an affront to the Jewish community, to her Arizona constituents and to the country.

Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL 20)

I am sickened by the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, her staff, and others today in Arizona.
“Gabby is one of my closest friends and my thoughts and prayers are with Mark, Gabby’s parents, and their family as they struggle to get through this unimaginable tragedy. I pray for her full recovery and the recovery of the other victims of this horrific act of senseless violence.

Anyone who knows Gabby, knows that she is one of the nicest people you will meet. I’ve never heard her raise her voice in anger or express anything but optimism for our future and our nation.

Just two days after she stood on the floor of the House of Representatives and read from the 1st Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing free speech, she was shot while speaking with her constituents. The interaction of a Member of Congress with the people they represent is one of the greatest tenets of our democracy. I know how strongly Gabby feels about being accessible to the people that she represents.

I know from our many hours spent together that Gabby ran for Congress for one reason, to make America a better place and after her recent reelection, she made the following statement: ‘Our country must be strong enough to solve problems and that means we must learn how to work together again. Our children are counting on us.’

To her staff and the family members of her staff and Judge John Roll killed in this shooting I extend my deep sympathy and prayers. No one, not a Member of Congress, nor a dedicated public servant should have to fear for their safety while working to uphold our democracy.

And to the people and family members of the public attacked at this event, you are in my thoughts and prayers. The American public should not have to worry that they will suffer a violent attack while carrying out their right to petition their government.

My husband and I will be praying as hard as we can that Gabby pulls through this and makes a full recovery so she can be the bright light that she has always been to her family and friends.

Nancy Gordon,  Pennsylvania Coordinator, Million Mom March (2000), Co-founder, CeaseFirePA

This a terrible tragedy, but it is not the first and it will not be the last.  Also tragic are the shooting deaths of Chief Judge John Roll, the other victims of this shooting (including a 9-year-old girl), and the 13 Americans, on average, who lose their lives to gun violence every single day.  An effective way to reduce the incidence of gun deaths and injuries would be to restrict access to guns, through meaningful background checks, licensing of gun owners, registration of guns, and a prohibition on civilian ownership of assault weapons.  Most of our legislators have refused to take these steps.  While this shooting was horrifying, anyone who’s been paying attention should not be shocked by it; with over 300,000,000 guns out there in civilian hands, and virtually no regulation of who’s allowed to have them, we are all at risk, all the time.  No wonder that 13 people are killed each day, and almost 300 people are shot and injured every day, according to the Brady Campaign.

Phil Goldsmith, president of CeaseFirePA

It is a terrible tragedy and our prayers are with her and the familes of all the victims. Once again, it demonstrates how easy it is for guns to get in the wrong hands in this nation.

Anti-Defamation League, Arizona Chapter

Phoenix, AZ, January 9, 2011 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned the tragic shooting rampage that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and killed and wounded more than a dozen innocent bystanders in Tucson, with reports of six dead and 14 wounded.                    
 Miriam Weisman, ADL Arizona Regional Board Chair, and Bill Straus, ADL Arizona Regional Director, issued the following statement:  
      We are shocked by this unconscionable and horrific act of violence against one of our highly respected public servants.  We agree with President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner that this was more than an attack on one member of Congress – it is an attack on all public servants and the very fabric of our democracy.

      During her years in the statehouse, Rep. Giffords served on the ADL Arizona Regional Board.  Her affiliation with ADL, which monitors and exposes hate and extremist groups, contributed to her awareness of the nexus between hate ideology and violence.  It is a testament to her dedication to her constituents that despite past threats against her, Rep. Giffords has always been so accessible to the people she represents.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords and the other victims and their families.

ADL remains in contact with law enforcement as investigators endeavor to establish a motive for the attack. It is critical to determine whether the alleged shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, acted alone or with others, and whether he was influenced by extremist literature, propaganda or hate speech.  While it is still not clear whether the attack was motivated by political ideology, the tragedy has already led to, as Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik put it, “soul searching” about the connection between incivility and violence. We applaud Sheriff Dupnik’s statements
condemning the volatile nature of political discourse in America and for taking this investigation seriously.

Lynne Honickman, Founder, Moms Against Guns (now merged with CeasefirePA)

It was the worst of times! devastating… unbearably sad…senseless… a beautiful young representative reaching out to her constituency…a child beginning a proud life of service…a judge who had devoted 40 years to our benefit, and many  others who had come together to dialogue for the welfare of all. But, in the way of all evil acts, there is its opposite side, the best in our country will rise above politics and self serving rhetoric -and will demand not only  justice but a new kind of civility that will not tolerate illegal guns, automatic weapons in wrong hands and anyone or anything that jeopardizes our hard fought and hard won freedoms.

We are all heartsick—– but, non-the-less hopeful Americans, praying for Gabby Gifford’s recovery as well as her companions and the families of all those stricken….May G-d Bless them and our country…and keep us all strong and just.

Affiliations are provided for identification purposes only and do not imply endorsement of the organizations indicated.