Shirley Sotloff, whose son, Steven, was beheaded last year by Islamic State militants, spoke of her son’s life and legacy at the Newseum in Washington DC on Monday.
“‘Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you only have one.’ These are the words my late son Steven Joel Sotloff wrote during his 13 months of captivity,” Shirley Sotloff said at the Newseum’s annual rededication of it’s monument for slain journalists. “Steven began to accept that he would not return. That his first life he had relished and lived to the fullest was coming to an end. His second life began. He urged his family not to grieve for him but instead to honor him by cherishing the freedoms we have.”
The 31-year old Jewish journalist was kidnapped in Syria in August 2013 and killed last September by ISIS terrorists. His name as well as the names of 13 others journalists were added to the museum’s Journalist Memorial, representing more that 60 journalists who died while reputing in 2014. There are 2,271 names of those who have died since 1837.
In her speech, Shirley Sotloff emphasized the need to promote press and speech freedoms around the world. “The United Nations declares freedom of speech a global human right but as we know not everyone in the world has the privilege of this right,” she said. “This is the primary reason journalists from the free world bravely work to tell the stories of those who cannot tell their own”
She also announced the the launch of a foundation her family has started in Steven’s honor. The 2Lives foundation will provide support to journalists and their families affected by the realities of reporting from war-torn settings.
“We also want to try to help families like ourselves that didn’t have the opportunity and resources to save our kids,” Sotloff’s father Art said in an interview with the Miami Herald . The Sotloff family has been critical of the US government’s response to his kidnapping. Art Sotloff said other hostages “that were released because their countries were responsible enough to pay a ransom to get their kids back.”
President Obama visited the family in Florida late last month. The president “appreciated the chance to hear from the Sotloffs more about Steven’s work as a journalist, including his passion for bringing the stories of people who are suffering to the rest of the world in the hope of making a positive difference, including in Syria,” said Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council.
Shiley Sotloff echoed those statements Monday: “Steven chose his life’s work because of his passion for telling stories of those oppressed. He believed in democracy and the ideals and freedoms it afforded persecuted peoples. He knew all to well that many in the Middle East did not enjoy these same liberties.”