New York, NY, May 7, 2013 … In an address to the top leadership of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in Washington, DC, Vice President Joe Biden reflected on his long relationship with ADL, an organization he has known for 40 years and that has been there for him – and the country – for nearly every legislative battle and at every phase of his career.
“It is an honor to have worked with Abe and his predecessors for the last 40 years,” Vice President Biden said in remarks (transcript | video) to a room filled with ADL supporters, leaders and friends. “It’s because of you we are a better, more humane, more decent community. ”
The Vice President was introduced at the April 30th dinner celebrating the League’s centennial year by Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.
Mr. Biden’s speech was one of the highlights of ADL’s Centennial Summit & Gala. More than 1,000 Jewish community leaders, members of the League’s professional staff and others from across the country gathered in Washington for three days of workshops and presentations from experts on an array of issues of importance to the League’s work, including immigration reform, anti-Semitism in the U. S. and abroad, civil liberties, religious freedom, extremism, terrorism and hate crimes. It was one of the largest gatherings in the League’s history.
Recalling the words of then-President John F. Kennedy -- who in a speech on ADL’s 50th anniversary praised the organization’s “tireless pursuit of equality of treatment for all Americans” -- Vice President Biden commended ADL for reaching its 100-year milestone with a solid reputation and record of advancing equality, defending democratic ideals and fighting against prejudice and bigotry,
“Fifty years later … and I mean this sincerely: You have become America’s conscience,” Vice President Biden said. “You have become the conscience of this country, no matter what the issue. You have been a pillar of the Jewish community, but you reach out and you have reached out your embrace for all communities. ”
Earlier in the day on April 30, a delegation of ADL’s senior leadership met with President Barack Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House. The leadership delegation briefed the President on the League’s efforts to advocate for meaningful immigration reform and discussed other issues on its agenda, including efforts to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad and support for the State of Israel as it faces new challenges and security threats.
During the Oval Office meeting, ADL Centennial Chair Barbara B. Balser showed President Obama a video created in honor of ADL’s centennial year. The video campaign, “Imagine A World Without Hate,” has garnered more than one million views on YouTube and the ADL web site since it was launched nearly two months ago.
In his remarks to ADL, the Vice President reminisced about past battles and issues he has shared with ADL -- in the 1970s, in working toward an Israeli-Egyptian peace; in the 1980s, in working on legislation to prevent the United States from selling AWACs aircraft to Saudi Arabia and efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry; and in the last decade working to advance meaningful immigration reform on Capitol Hill.
Mr. Biden said he believes ADL’s mission has such resonance in America and in Washington, DC, because the basic premise of the mission is that “every solitary person is entitled to be treated with dignity. And, ladies and gentleman, the consequence of that is you are the most influential, the most listened to, the most respected organization in this town,” he said.
The ADL Centennial Gala also included a series of tributes to individuals and nations who had made a difference by standing up against prejudice and bigotry.
Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev spoke of the courageousness of the Bulgarian people who defied Hitler’s orders to deport Jews during the Holocaust, saying it was a model for all nations to emulate.
Other speakers included Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of terrorism victim Leon Klinghoffer; Rana Singh Sodhi, whose brother was shot and killed in a hate crime following the 9/11 terrorist attacks; and David Aponte, a bullying victim who now raises his voice as an anti-bias advocate. The event was moderated by NPR journalist Cokie Roberts.