It’s been five years since the death of Shimon Peres on September 28, 2016. Today was my first time watching the address that Barack Obama delivered at his funeral.
It is a remarkable eulogy, and it is hard for me to think of other statesmen or leaders about whom such a tribute has or could be given.
Below is the full speech on Youtube and here is the link to the transcript:
And here are a few of my favourite excerpts:
I don’t believe he was naïve. But he understood from hard-earned experience that true security comes through making peace with your neighbors. “We won them all,” he said of Israel’s wars. “But we did not win the greatest victory that we aspired to: release from the need to win victories.”
Out of the hardships of the diaspora, he found room in his heart for others who suffered. He came to hate prejudice with the passion of one who knows how it feels to be its target. Even in the face of terrorist attacks, even after repeated disappointments at the negotiation table, he insisted that as human beings, Palestinians must be seen as equal in dignity to Jews, and must therefore be equal in self-determination.
In many ways, he reminded me of some other giants of the 20th century that I’ve had the honor to meet — men like Nelson Mandela; women like Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth — leaders who have seen so much, whose lives span such momentous epochs, that they find no need to posture or traffic in what’s popular in the moment; people who speak with depth and knowledge, not in sound bites. They find no interest in polls or fads.
It is notable that, of all of his achievements, what is, perhaps, the most striking and admirable is the line about how Peres “found room in his heart for others who suffered.”
Studying eulogies can be deeply instructive in the enduring witness of virtues ever-transcending the fleeting criticism of the day.