Ambassador Gilchrist’s Remarks at the Opening of the Exhibition to Mark the 120th Birthday of Chiune Sugihara at the Seimas

Remarks by Ambassador Robert S. Gilchrist at the
Opening of the Exhibition to Mark the 120th Birthday of Chiune Sugihara and the 80th Anniversary of the Issuing of “Visas of Life”

Lietuvos Respublikos Seimas

Thursday, February 20, 2020


Honorable Speaker of Parliament Viktoras Pranckietis,

Honorable Member of Parliament Emanuelis Zingeris,

Honorable Members of Parliament,

Mr. Nobuki Sugihara and his family,

The honorable delegation from Japan,

Fellow ambassadors and distinguished guests:

Thank you for the honor of participating in this exhibition opening.  It is a great privilege for me to pay my respects to Chiune Sugihara today.

As a career diplomat, it is awe-inspiring and deeply moving to hear Mr. Sugihara’s story — how he chose compassion and humanity in the face of violence and war.  All of us know what Sugihara did.  We are also familiar with the personal price he paid for his actions:  forced to resign from his ministry, his life-saving efforts not widely recognized until decades later.

I am struck by the interview he gave in 1985, in which he revealed that he fully recognized the possible consequences of his actions.  “I knew that somebody would surely complain about me in the future.  But, I myself thought this would be the right thing to do.  There is nothing wrong in saving many people’s lives.”

Not all of us will face a choice to save lives.  But each of us — in our own way, in our own corners of the world — can make the choice to live each day with integrity.  We can choose to embrace the spirit of humanity that binds us all together, from Japan to Lithuania to the United States, and everywhere in between.

I am proud today to honor Chiune Sugihara.  May the memories of his actions, his compassion, and his goodness guide and inspire us in our own lives and our own work.  Having just recently arrived in Lithuania, I pledge to uphold these values in my duties, and I am looking forward to visiting the Sugihara House in Kaunas to learn even more about this great man.

Thank you.