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They Say Life Is A Roller Coaster

April 27, 2017

(Transcript of speech delivered at Holocaust Center Dinner of Tribute on April 19, 2017)

 

They say life is a roller coaster.

It’s not.

A roller coaster implies that sometimes we’re up here, and everything is wonderful. We’re happy. Successful. Feeling fulfilled. Our family and friends are doing well.

And then, according to this roller coaster analogy, sometimes we’re down here. Things are hard.

Maybe we’re depressed. Struggling. Perhaps there’s been a tragedy in our lives. A health or financial problem. A problem at work. A family problem.

But life is not a roller coaster. Life is not up or down.But up and down. The good and not so good…at the same time.

2016 was a monumental year for Steph and me. Our oldest son, Jacob, graduated from high school and started college. Our daughter, Sophie, got her driver’s license. And a job! Our youngest, Joseph, became a bar mitzvah. By any measure, that’s a pretty good year.

But despite all the simchas, all the awesomeness, we had some friends who were struggling, some people we were close to who passed away, some family members who had serious health problems, and these things weighed on us every day.

But life is not a roller coaster. Life is not up or down.But up and down. The good and not so good…at the same time.

Over the last year, I have met some of the most incredible people. Young leaders who are passionate and dedicated, using their boundless energy and enviable talents to create a better world. These young people are amazingly, tirelessly committed to the environment, to women’s rights, to the fight for equality. They’re confronting and making progress on tough issues like gun control and homelessness. It’s in their marrow to stand up and speak out, to wake up every single day and fight…for what’s right.

At the same time, over this past year, I have woken up nearly every day to the other reality.

Stories of despicable acts, many terrifyingly close to home – Pulse, the Plaza, bomb threats at the Jewish Community Center, racist propaganda plastered on the walls of UCF, the desecration of cemeteries and sacred buildings,swastikas placed on the door steps of dear friends and drawn on the hands of school children right here in Central Florida.

But life is not a roller coaster. Life is not up or down.But up and down. The good and not so good…at the same time.

When we think of the Holocaust, we think of the six million, the pogroms, the forced marches, families torn apart and forced to face the most unimaginable horrors. We think of the implementation of laws that made it legal, LEGAL to marginalize and persecute Jews,

homosexuals, Romas, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the handicapped…all in an effort to purify the Aryan race and crystallize the authority of the party in power.

But at the Holocaust Center, we remind people of the heroes, the UpStanders, the righteous gentiles, the Albanian Muslims, the Danish diplomats, the Franciscan priest who hid thousands of Jewish refugees, the ordinary mothers and fathers who risked their own lives and the lives of their families because they knew the right thing to do … and did it.

It was over three decades ago that Orlando’s Holocaust Center was founded. And over those years, we have made great progress and done incredible things. We have changed minds and lives. We have welcomed tens of thousands of visitors to our Center. Our survivor programs are standing room only. We see 20,000 middle and high school students each year. We take groups to Poland and the Czech Republic to see first hand and with their own eyes what unbridled hate leads to so that they will stand up, speak out and ensure that such cruelty never, ever happens again.

Which makes me wonder why, after all these years and all this effort, are we’re still fighting these same battles, teaching these same lessons and defending these same ideas.

I wonder why today, every day, we still read about almost the same acts of hate, of intolerance, of disrespect.

So what can we do? We keep working and keep believing that if we stand up and speak out, eventually, perhaps more slowly than we’d like, the world will change, the world will be more good than bad, more respect than disrespect, more love than hate.

Mayor Dyer knows this. That’s why we’re honoring him tonight. Our mayor is a role model who has proven that when we stand up and speak out, we all benefit, and we all thrive.

But the trick is … the trick is we can’t just be outraged when we are the ones who are threatened. We can’t just rally when the injustices are levied against our people. We can’t just take action when the threats are against our group. We can’t just stand up and speak out when it’s the people who look like us or pray like us or love like us that are under attack.

We must stand up and speak out for each other even when it’s hard, even when it’s scary, even when it seems like we are the only ones standing up or speaking out.

This sentiment was expressed by Martin Niemuller in 1946 when he wrote the following words:

 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out  — Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

 

These may seem like hard times. The voices of the intolerant and the hateful seem very loud.

But there are other voices – voices of reason, of conscience, of love – voices like those of many in this room, like that of our Mayor…

And they will be heard.

And they will prevail.

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