Secretary Mayorkas delivered the following remarks in his keynote address to the Eradicate Hate Global Summit in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Two weeks ago, I went to New York City for the annual September 11th commemoration ceremony at Ground Zero.
One of the individuals who lost someone on 9/11 spoke, 22 years after the attack, and his address to the audience was as follows: “They say time heals all wounds. I disagree.”
For two weeks now, I have thought about that individual and his sentiment.
The impact of an act of hate is never momentary or acute. A swastika graffitied on a wall; a slur posted on the internet; an arson; a shooting; a car deliberately driven into a crowd of people. There is no such thing as a small act of hate, and it is always felt more broadly than by the physical victims themselves.
Hurt and fear ripple outwards after every such act. The waves may get smaller, or spread farther apart, but they can still crash over us, often in unexpected ways and at unexpected times.
I saw this in my own home, growing up. My mother, who escaped the Holocaust, while so many in her family did not, gently, but firmly, barred me from sleepovers with my friends or sleep-away camps. She had known children who left home and did not return, and it compelled her, decades later, to keep us close.
I know, however, that for every enduring ripple of hurt and fear that follows an act of hate, there is also an enduring ripple of resolve, and indeed, to paraphrase Robert Kennedy, an enduring ripple of hope.
Our country and our Department saw this in the immediate wake of 9/11 – a non-partisan determination to never again allow an attack like that to strike our country.
Today our nation faces an evolved and expanded threat environment – one where individuals are radicalized to violence based on ideologies of hate, anti-government sentiment, conspiracy theories, or personal grievances. Where offenders are less concerned with highly valuable or highly visible targets than they are with highly convenient targets like schools, houses of worship, and grocery stores. Too many communities nationwide are forced to deal with the aftermath of hate-fueled violence, and local officials are left to pick up the pieces.
Our ability to successfully mitigate and eradicate such targeted violence requires us to once again cultivate, harness, and amplify our sense of resolve and hope.
In big ways and small ways, quiet ways and public ways, that work has evolved, grown, and proceeded alongside the threat environment.
Last year, after the horrific attack at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, hundreds of mayors from across the country came together at the United We Stand Summit to share resources, combat the tremendous rise in hate-fueled violence across our country, and help their communities heal. San Antonio’s Compassionate USA Campaign and the U.S. Conference of Mayors have continued to drive these efforts forward since. In their work, we see ripples of resolve and hope.
Last week, in the wake of more than 500 mass shootings and 30,000-gun deaths this year alone, President Biden established the first-ever Office of Gun Violence Prevention – part of our unprecedented administration-wide effort to answer the pleas of countless grief-stricken and traumatized communities, and one that will be led, in part, by a survivor of gun violence. That day, in the Rose Garden, we saw ripples of resolve and hope.
Yesterday, I attended the Annual Conference of National Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I spoke with college presidents and leaders still reeling from last month’s averted racially motivated shooting at Edward Waters University. The shooting struck nearby and took three innocent lives… Yet I spoke to them at a conference dedicated to providing campuses where every student is safe to learn and grow; to building a nationwide community of support; and to connecting schools with our Department’s intelligence, grants, cyber resiliency and active shooter trainings – resources that are already making an impact. In that convening, we saw ripples of resolve and hope.
We also see our DHS workforce take steps to combat and prevent hate-fueled violence every single day. We cut through red tape to connect communities across the country with our Department’s resources – including resources made available under President Biden’s first-ever National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism and the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.
Our Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention Grant Program has helped 143 different violence-reduction pilot programs get off the ground and flourish.
Our Center for Prevention, Programs, and Partnerships connects state and local leaders with technical, educational, and policy assistance. We have created a network of 19 Regional Prevention Coordinators, each of whom help state governments develop effective, individualized violence prevention strategies. New York, Illinois, and Hawaii have already put strategies in place; another 10 states will soon join them, and it is our hope that this program can soon set a nationwide standard of excellence.
We may not always know the tragedy we prevent. But in our Department's work, and in our close collaboration with communities dedicated to stopping the next Tree of Life, the next Buffalo, the next Colorado Springs, the next Oak Creek, or the next El Paso, we see ripples of resolve and hope.
Just half an hour ago, I met privately with some of you – survivors who have inspired this great city, who have inspired our nation – some of whom have harnessed their grief and their hurt and channeled it into this extraordinary conference.
In each of them, in the Pittsburgh community, and in all of you, I see, and I feel, ripples of resolve and hope.
We must continue to cultivate, harness, and amplify this work – your work. It is only at the nexus of all of these efforts that currents are built, and tangible, life-saving progress is made for communities and for vulnerable populations across our country.
Partnership is fundamental to the security of our homeland, to our work combatting domestic terrorism, to our work combatting anti-Semitism, and to the mission of safety and security for all.
That partnership is not only needed to achieve the outcomes for which we work – it is also a matter of principle. We must remember and abide by the principle that both guides us and binds us together: that when one community is targeted for violence, we are all the victims.
Convenings like the Eradicate Hate Global Summit are essential to facilitating those partnerships. I thank you all for bringing your time, expertise, and experience to this Summit. I am especially grateful to President Charles Moellenberg, and co-chairs Laura Ellsworth and Mark Nordenberg, for hosting us. The Department of Homeland Security is incredibly proud to be your partner, and your friend.
I close my remarks this afternoon by acknowledging that, while there will be many days ahead like this one and like those I just described – moments of commemoration and purpose – there will be just as many, if not more, days of disappointment and grief. Days where your resolve will feel empty, and hope will feel lost.
Time will not heal all wounds.
But no survivor is ever alone in their frustration, and it is through our connections to one another, to each other, that this sense of mission, pride, and peace can be restored, and the ability to again be a ripple of resolve and hope is renewed.
That is also why convenings such as this, and the individual connections made here, are so very important.
Thank you all for being here today. Thank you for your individual, and your collaborative, work to honor the victims of hate, defeat the forces of fear, and build a more tolerant, secure future. And thank you for the honor of speaking with you today.