2010 Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient - Gerda Weissmann Klein

Uploaded by whitehouse on 17.02.2011

Ms. Weissmann Klein: For me, to be honored today, I have to reach very far into my
very distant past.
When I was liberated from a death march in concentration
camps, my beloved husband was the first American I
encountered, who liberated me.
That night, I prayed for him -- though I didn't know his name --
and his country.
When I had the great privilege and honor to come and become an
American -- to be given my life, my freedom,
the great opportunity to be a wife and a mother and an
American citizen -- I tried in whichever way I could
to give back to this beloved country all that it has given me
-- fulfilling dreams I never even know how to dream.
And to think that today, my country is thanking me,
is something almost incomprehensible that I cannot
in any way articulate.
I don't believe anything inspired me.
I think survival is an incredible privilege,
and with it comes a very deep obligation to speak about those
who never had the chance; who never held their child in their arms.
I think that I can never pay back enough,
and I always ask the question, why am I here?
My advice -- I had the privilege to --
it was my beloved oldest granddaughter, Alysa,
who is here -- which is, sort of,
another miracle to be in the White House later with my
children and now with my granddaughter --
who had given up her own career in order to fulfill our dreams
together to start something called "Citizenship Counts" to
teach young people of this country -- children,
great-grandchildren, all the generations -- to count.
To be proud to be Americans.
To value what has been given to us.
To fight for it.
To appreciate it, and to love it.
To understand, first of all, what freedom means which,
blessedly, all of you who have been born with freedom cannot
possibly understand, and for young people to look back and
see what this country has done all over the world.
In goodness, you know.
When you think that even though we have difficulties --
certainly economical and other difficulties in our country --
we still reach out to Haiti and every place where there is
trouble and our children have to understand that this is what our
country is built on.
Together in all who have been homeless and hungry for the
opportunity of a free life, of trying to reach to the stars;
and to me, the dream is -- and I do believe that the children of
our country will fulfill it -- that every child in every corner
of the world, of every race, of every religion, of every color,
should be able to look to the stars and dream their own dreams
in freedom.