Not only a distinguished gathering here on the platform but a distinguished audience out here. Today we’re here for — I’m signing the bill to make Raoul Wallenberg an honorary citizen of the United States. But in making him a United States citizen, I think we’re the ones that are being honored.
Raoul Wallenberg is the Swedish savior of almost 100,000 Jewish men, women, and children. What he did, what he accomplished was of biblical proportions. Sir Winston Churchill, another man of force and fortitude, is the only other person who has received honorary United States citizenship. And as John F. Kennedy said at that signing ceremony, « Indifferent himself to danger, he wept over the sorrows of others. »
That compassion also exemplifies the man we are gathered here for today. In 1944 the United States requested Sweden’s cooperation in protecting the lives of Hungarian Jews facing extermination at the hands of the Nazis. In the months that followed, the United States supplied the funds and the directives, and Raoul Wallenberg supplied the courage and the passion. How can we comprehend the moral worth of a man who saved tens and tens of thousands of lives, including those of Congressman and Mrs. Lantos?
In 1945, in violation of diplomatic immunity and international law, he was seized by the Soviet Union. The Nazis were gone, and the Soviets had come in as an ally. And yet today, there is evidence that he is still imprisoned by the Soviets. Wherever he is, his humanity burns like a torch.
I heard someone say that a man has made at least a start on understanding the meaning of human life when he plants shade trees under which he knows he will never sit. Raoul Wallenberg is just such a man. He nurtured the lives of those he never knew at the risk of his own. And then just recently, I was told that in a special area behind the Holocaust Memorial in Israel, Hungarian Jews, now living in Sweden, planted 10,000 trees in Raoul’s honor.
Mrs. Lagergren, Mr. von Dardel, we’re going to do everything in our power so that your brother can sit beneath the shade of those trees and enjoy the respect and love that so many hold for him.
Note: The President spoke at 2:35 p.m. at the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House. Participants in the ceremony included the Swedish Ambassdor and Mrs. Wilhelm Wachtmeister, Members of the Senate and House of Representatives, representatives of the Jewish community, and Mr. Wallenberg’s sister and brother, Nina Lagergren and Guy von Dardel, who came from Sweden for the ceremony. Also in attendance were Representative Tom Lantos of California, the principal sponsor of the resolution in the House of Representatives, and his wife. While a 16-year-old youth working for the Hungarian Underground, Representative Lantos was saved in Budapest by Mr. Wallenberg.
As enacted, S.J. Res. 65 is Public Law 97 – 54, approved October 5.