April 19, 2010 - 06:28 PM
by Mike Huckabee
We are a nation of laws, but we are a people rooted in deep principles of mutual respect and recognition and we have individual roles to play in the preservation of our liberty. It is our collective duty to guard our liberty against those who would destroy it either from without or within.
Largely because of my faith, I have traveled to Israel on nine different occasions. This land, holy to Christians, Jews, and Muslims, is perhaps the single most contested piece of real estate on the planet. Each time I have gone, I am not only inspired by my pilgrimages to the sites that are holy to my own Christian faith, but I never fail to visit Yad Vashem, the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. In February 1994, my wife and I went on one of our trips and took our children with us. Our daughter, Sarah, the youngest of our three, was eleven at the time. Her brother David was thirteen and John Mark sixteen. I struggled with whether I should take Sarah to see Yad Vashem because the experience of viewing the artifacts and photographs of the horrors inflicted upon the Jewish people during Hitler's reign of terror was so intense. I was concerned it would be emotionally overpowering for her.
After Janet and I deliberated whether she should go, we decided that she should see this powerful reminder of just how cruel people can be. Our hope was that it might better explain to her why we felt compelled to leave the comfort of our peaceful and pleasant world and jump into the often savage environment of politics. I decided I would accompany Sarah through Yad Vashem, attempting to explain the progressive manner in which Hitler and the Nazis due to their own bigotry and irrational hatred had systematically sought to annihilate the Jewish people.
Yad Vashem is presented in a chronological format, with each section of the memorial depicting the growing acts of hostility toward the Jews. In the early part of the exhibit, the yellow Stars of David that the Nazis forced to be pinned on the clothing of the Jewish children were displayed. I showed Sarah how the Jewish children were isolated, targeted for ridicule and humiliation. I could tell that she was stunned by the cruelty inflicted upon the children even younger than she. As we progressed through the exhibit she saw photos of Jewish children left to fend for themselves on the streets of Warsaw and other European cities after their parents were taken. She noted how the children often received their warmth from lying across the grates of a sewer, and their food from morsels tossed by sympathetic residents from their windows above. As we gazed upon the pictures of Dachau and Auschwitz, she was introduced to the horrors and the thousands of bodies stacked on top of one another like lumber. Her grip on my hand tightened as we went through each stage of Yad Vashem. All during our visit I hoped the experience would not be overly traumatic, but powerful enough that she would never forget how important it is for people to stand up and speak out for those being victimized by evil people abusing their power.
As we approached the exit of Yad Vashem, a guest book placed by the door caught her attention. She stared at it for a moment, realizing it was there so visitors could write their names and addresses and any comments they might have about the experience. She had not said a word in quite some time, just gripped my hand more and more tightly as we walked through the experience. At the guest book, she reached up into my pocket, took my pen, and without a word began to scribble her name and address. I leaned over and watched her, curious as to what she might write in the comment section. I thought perhaps what she wrote would give me an indication as to whether or not she "got it." My eleven-year-old daughter in her childish scrawl, wrote simple words that I will never forget: "Why didn't somebody do something?"
That is all she wrote, but with those words I knew she "got it."
Without saying another word we left, boarded the bus, and for more than an hour she remained completely silent. The impact upon her was profound, but so was the impact on me as I silently prayed. My prayer was the hope that no father will have to take his daughter through an exhibit dedicated to the memory of a country called America, once considered great, and have to try to explain why America lost its way, became indifferent, and collapsed. I prayed a father would never stand over his daughter and watch her write about America, "Why didn't somebody do something?" I knew then it would be a mission for the rest of my life.