Remarks at Press Conference for the Samuel Bak Museum Opening
Vilna Gaon Jewish Museum
November 15, 2017
Ladies and gentlemen,
lt is a great privilege for me to be here today. The opening of the Samuel Bak Museum in Lithuania is a historic milestone for U.S.-Lithuanian friendship. We are enormously grateful to the Vilna Gaon Jewish Museum and the Pucker Gallery in the United States for their phenomenal efforts in making this event happen, and many others who have supported this project over many years, including many U.S. Ambassadors before me – and, most importantly, the artist himself, Samuel Bak. There is nothing more gratifying for me than to see years of vision and hard work come to fruition. I am honored to be among such esteemed company.
The Samuel Bak museum showcases the work and life of a truly extraordinary American Litvak artist, and one of the world’s greatest living artists. We are immensely indebted to Mr. Bak for his life’s work, for his deep connection to Vilnius, for his genius, and for the sheer humanity that he expresses so eloquently through his work.
Sam Bak, we are so proud that you are an American, and that you treasure your connection to Vilnius so strongly that you are entrusting this community with many precious pieces of your life’s work. You truly represent what is best about both our countries, and you are making our world a more compassionate and wiser place to live. We are proud to share you with Lithuania and will celebrate with you later today when you are made an honorary citizen of Vilnius.
It is a great honor and privilege for the U.S. Embassy to have played a role in the creation of this museum. On both sides of the Atlantic, in the U.S. and in Lithuania, there have always been ardent supporters of Mr. Bak’s work. They appreciate not only its significant artistic merits, but the artist’s amazing power to communicate the human experience of tragedy and hope. It is deeply meaningful that his work now has a home here in Vilnius.
We are indebted to the efforts of the Lithuanian government, its cultural and educational institutions, as they embrace and commemorate the Jewish history and culture of this country. We also commend the people of Lithuania as they discover and reconnect with the voices of their past that have been lost, erased, or blurred. The permanent display of Samuel Bak’s work in Vilnius is an important step in our joint effort to appreciate the vibrant life that thrived here once and continues to live through his amazing art.
Thank you, Mr. Bak, for sharing your incredible vision with us. Thanks to you, generations of Lithuanians and Americans will be inspired by it.