Today is the day! The Abolitionists documentary is set to hit over 500 theaters across the country this evening. We hope you have your ticket!
The below remarks were given by Senator Orrin Hatch at a pre-screening of The Abolitionists on May 11, 2016 in Washington DC. Enjoy!
It’s truly a privilege for me to be here. We live in a country of unparalleled opportunity. The Constitution grants us access to the blessings of liberty and equality—fundamental freedoms that are the birthright of every American citizen. To deny any person these basic rights would seem almost unthinkable today, so to consider that—even as I speak—there are thousands of individuals living as slaves in our country would seem even more unthinkable.
But it’s true.
In the United States, right now, there are thousands of human beings living as slaves—men, women, and children stolen from their homes, stripped of their God-given rights, and robbed of their human dignity. What is even more unbelievable, these individuals live among us. They live in our neighborhoods and our suburbs, our biggest cities and our smallest towns. They live in a world of silence, hopelessness, and unspeakable suffering.
These individuals of whom I speak are the victims of human trafficking—a heinous and abominable crime that we should call by its real name: modern-day slavery. The State Department estimates that up to 17,500 human beings are trafficked to the US every year. The majority of these individuals are women and children. Most of them are forced into sex work.
The problem is even more egregious beyond our borders. Worldwide, the International Labor Organization estimates that 4.5 million people are currently enslaved in sex trafficking. These numbers are staggering, but they merely illustrate the scope of the problem. And the suffering of each individual victim should not be lost in a sea of statistics. For victims of human trafficking, the surreal horror of their lives bears testament to the gravity of the crime.
Tonight, we will hear their stories. We will bear witness to their suffering and see firsthand the tragedy of their lives. We will also meet their saviors—the men and women who are fighting to free these children from the chains of modern-day slavery—the abolitionists of our time.
Many of these heroes are with us tonight, including my dear friend Tim Ballard, the Founder and CEO of Operation Underground Railroad. O.U.R. is a powerful force for good in the fight against child sex trafficking. Across the world, the organization has liberated hundreds of children from the hell they were lured into by evil and designing men. As you will see, Tim is at the forefront of O.U.R.’s mission, leading sting operations in countries and continents across the globe. He is a hero in every sense of the word. On behalf of all gathered here tonight, I wish to thank Tim for his courage, his service, and his sacrifice.
I also wish to recognize the Academy Award-winning producer Gerald Molen, who is also with us tonight. Jerry, thank you for using your penchant for storytelling to tell a story that desperately needs telling. Likewise, I wish to thank all in attendance who made this screening a reality. Though not all of us can fight on the front lines in the war against child slavery, all of us can contribute in our own individual ways. Just by being present tonight, you are all helping the cause.
The film we are about to watch will stir feelings in each of us. Indeed, it will move us. But it is not enough to be moved. We must be committed to action. We must leave here tonight doubly devoted to combatting the evils of human trafficking. All of us can help in this effort. I urge you to join us in the fight against modern-day slavery.