Pelosi Remarks at COVID Memorial Project’s Interfaith Memorial Service for 200,000 U.S. Lives Lost

September 22, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the COVID Memorial Project's interfaith memorial service on the grounds of the National Mall as the nation crosses the devastating threshold of 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much, Rabbi for the opportunity to be with you this morning and also for your inspiring words.  It’s a very sad occasion for our country.  When I say occasion, I mean all-embracing timeframe.

To be here with Sister Simone, whom we’ve been with over and over again, whether it’s Nuns on the Bus for health care, fairness in our economy, any subject that you can name.  And she will be at it again tomorrow morning, I know.  We’ll be with her virtually.  Today, though, actually.

I’m here on behalf of my colleagues and I‘m pleased to be joined by Congressman Sean Casten of Illinois, a person who cares about the American people but also sees solutions through science, that lives could be saved, could have been saved, but we must protect others. 

So, I thank you.  I thank you for in some ways giving some perspective on the number of the lives that have been lost, multiplied again and again.  And these flags are indicative, not only, of the lives lost, but of the families left behind and suffering.  We all had a terrible loss with the loss of the notorious Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Friday night.  It came as a shock.  It came as a shock and we all felt as if we had a death in the family.  I want all of these families to know that we feel the same about them.  Even – we – though we did not know them all, as Sister Simone knew the nuns who sacrificed their lives to help save lives, and then lost their lives.  Some people are doing that now and they lose their jobs if we don’t address their needs. 

But this was preventable.  Not all of it, but much of it.  And what could be lost in the future is preventable too, if we embrace science.  Science instead of politics at the Centers for Disease Control.  Great scientists there demoralized by the political overturning of recommendations to save lives.  Great scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, hopefully not demoralized as they go forward with the vaccine, but on the verge of some of that because of political decisions, as well.  HHS – what is going on here?  We’re talking about lives.

Now, listening to the religious presentations of Sister Simone and the Rabbi, I just want to – I was thinking as I looked out at all of these flags, these lives lost, representative of so many more.  The Rabbi said, ‘We’re all God’s children,’ and indeed we are.  When Christ came down from Heaven – Rabbi, this is in our tradition, Sister Simone and I – when Christ came down from Heaven and became man, his participation in our humanity enabled us to participate in his divinity.  So, think of all of these flags as a spark of divinity lost to their families and to all of us, our sense of community.  This is a tragedy. 

We are told that to minister to the needs of God’s creation is an act of worship.  To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.  So, we are here to honor the God who made us by honoring his children, all God’s children.  With a pledge that we, Rabbi, will join you in bending the arc, bending the arc.  Dr. King spoke of that.  You are living that.  It has to be that arc of justice – that arc has to bend toward justice, as Dr. King instructed us.  

It’s just – it’s just incomprehensible, the situation we find ourselves in and getting back to Sister Simone’s comments about not having a plan.  We do have a plan.  It’s a comprehensive plan about testing, tracing treating, social distancing, wearing masks, sanitation.  It’s based on science, not politics, and it has been ignored by some of the powers that be.

But if we embrace it, we can save lives.  We can prevent this from happening to so many families.  Just look at the lives lost and multiply it, not just by the number but by the family and the sense of community, the loss to our country.  

So, again, everything is about time.  The time we can see ahead if we’re visionaries about what could be done; the time that is lost because we haven’t done something; and the time we should take to go forward. 

So, I will go to time in Ecclesiastes.  ‘There is an appointed time for everything and a time for every affair under the Heavens.  A time to give birth and a time to die.  A time to plant and a time to uproot the plant.  A time to kill and a time to heal.  A time to tear down and a time to build.  A time to weep and a time to laugh.  A time to mourn and a time to dance.  A time to scatter stones and a time to gather them.  A time to embrace and a time to be far from embraces.’  That’s where we are now.  ‘A time to seek and a time to lose.  A time to keep and a time to cast away.  A time to rend and a time to sew.  A time to be silent and a time to speak out.  A time of love… a time of war and a time of peace.’

So, here we are at a time to heal, a time to heal.  Our message to the families who have lost their loved ones, their spouses, their parents, their siblings, their parents, their children, their dear friends and their communities.  Some of them without even the opportunity to say goodbye.  No time to embrace, because of this virus.

It is a time for us to crush the virus, not crush the Affordable Care Act.  It’s a time for us to vote health, not ignore.  Not ignore the needs of the American people. 

So, thank you, Sister Simone, for always being there, for being our leader and honoring our responsibilities.

Thank you, Rabbi for your leadership and your beautiful words about all of this.

And again, as we value the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, I know she would want us to value the lives of every single person times many more, represented by these flags.  The flag, the flag that we pledge every day in our service and every office that anyone is sworn a pledge for liberty and justice for all.

Let us bend the arc toward justice.  Thank you.