January 27, 2012


(US Embassy, Stockholm) Mayor Lindquist, Lidingö City Representatives, Wallenberg family Members, Honored Guests:

Thank you for inviting me to join you here today on this very special occasion, and to offer a few thoughts on the significance of this event.

It is with a deep sense of honor and appreciation that I stand here with you on the island of Lidingö where Raoul Wallenberg was born. As we all know, Raoul Wallenberg was a diplomat who chose not to be passive when faced with great evil. Without concern for his own safety, he worked tirelessly to save thousands of Hungarian Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazis by providing “Wallenberg passports” so they could leave, and “Swedish protected buildings” as places of safety and shelter in Budapest.

Raoul Wallenberg’s mission was a shining example of American-Swedish cooperation for the common good. His work as a Swedish official in Budapest was in part financed by the United States.

In 1981, to honor his self sacrifice, the United States awarded Raoul Wallenberg honorary American citizenship, a rare but fitting honor for a man who embodied the ideals that both Sweden and the United States cherish.

Together, we have long cooperated to defend and promote human rights at home and abroad. Perhaps the most important part of Wallenberg’s legacy lies in its lessons for the generations to come. In that light, may I offer my warmest congratulations to Class 5 at Lilla Högsätra Skola, which received Lidingö’s Raoul Wallenberg award this year for replicating Wallenberg’s humanitarian spirit, courage, and actions.

My heartfelt respect and admiration goes to the many groups and individuals who have made this day possible. Each and every one of us has a responsibility to speak up in the face of suffering, intolerance, and violence. As Secretary of State Clinton wrote recently in an editorial, quoting Lutheran pastor and Nazi resister Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. ... Not to act is to act.”

Motivated by my commitment to remembrance, I intend to plant a horse chestnut tree in front of the US Ambassadorial residence in Nobel Park. I have been told that there was just such a tree on the grounds of Raoul’s summer childhood home here on Lidingö. The horse chestnut tree is also called the Anne Frank tree, after the young Jewish girl who was hiding from the Nazis in Amsterdam. Through a window in the attic, Anne could see the horse chestnut tree; she wrote about how much it meant to her in her diary. The tree we plant will be accompanied by a plaque honoring Raoul Wallenberg’s legacy, highlighting how a single individual can make a difference - a huge difference – and as a call to action for all of us. We should do our best to honor the memory of Raoul Wallenberg by speaking out and acting against the forces of hatred and evil today.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than vigilance, vigilance for the act of indifference. The importance of not being indifferent is a basic value. Raoul Wallenberg gave his life for his commitment to that basic value. Thank you very much.


Raoul Wallenberg A STUDY OF HEROES, General News


The Raoul Wallenberg Committee of the United States