Monday, November 9, 2009

Die Kanzlerin Kommt [ nach Amerika ]

[ The Chancellor is coming! - This time to America! ]

In the beginning of November, just days before the anniversary of the "Fall of the Wall" in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, made a landmark address to a joint meeting of Congress in Washington DC.

The last time that a chancellor has been bestowed with this honor was in 1957, when Konrad Adenauer addressed the House of Representatives and Senate separately. This is one of the main reasons that makes Merkel's address so important, since she is the first German Chancellor in over 50 years - in addition, the first female Chancellor - to address a joint session in Congress. In her address Merkel highlighted and reminded listeners about the deep connections between the US, Germany, and the rest of Europe over the past decades.

Merkel began her address with a background over the past decades of German and US relations, and how this history has impacted her life, and how it has led her to become a German politician with the landmark accomplishment of serving as the first female Chancellor of Germany newly reelected for her second term. It was a neat experience to read about the event in the German news - translating the article side-by-side with a dictionary, excited by the fact that I was able to see the Chancellor speak live just weeks ago.

Merkel spoke fondly of her fascination with the United States as a young girl, striving to research about the land in the highly regulated, communistic former Eastern Germany - the GDR, German Democratic Republic.

[ The US was ] The land of unlimited opportunity - for a long time it was impossible for me to reach. The Wall, barbed wire and the order to shoot those who tried to leave limited my access to the free world.

Her words emphasized how freedom was so important to her as a young adult, and how that has impacted the politician that she has become in present day.

I was passionate about the American dream - the opportunity for everyone to be successful, to make it in life through their own personal effort.

When she mentioned the historic anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall, occurring only a few days later in Germany, the members of the US joint Congress all jumped to a standing ovation, recognizing just how much this event impacted the world and sparked modern international relations. Merkel used this opportunity, using herself to represent the voice of an entire unified Germany, to say a warm thank you to the Americans - since, as she mentioned, as many German's know, without the assistance of America during the trying times after the war, through the nation's divide, through to Regan's pivotal address to Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!", there is so much that the nation of Germany must thank the Americans for.

Ladies and gentlemen, to sum it up in one sentence: I know, we Germans know, how much we owe to you, our American friends. We as a nation, and I personally, will never forget that.

Merkel moved her speech to the close alliance of the US, Germany and the rest of Europe in the past decades, but she recognized that the times did not pass without challenges, struggles and missunderstandings -

This is why the ability to show tolerance is so important. While, for us, our way of life is the best possible way, others do not necessarily feel that way. There are different ways to create peaceful coexistence. Tolerance means showing respect for other people's history, traditions, religion and cultural identity.

Addressing the arguments that divide our nation's politics into disagreements, Merkel concentrated on other pressing issues that are impacting modern world politics. She spoke of her ambitions for a more unified plan for Global Warming at the world climate conference in Copenhagen in the near future. She also addressed the globalization of our world, and how this has created new opportunities, new challenges, and also new fears in many. Using this in accordance to the financial crisis of last year, Merkel stressed the importance of a new world order and cooperation to protect ourselves from greater problems in the future -

"A globalized economy needs a global order ... a global framework of rules,"

"Without global rules and transparency and supervision, we will not gain more freedom, but rather risk the abuse of freedom and thus risk instability."

Using the very appropriate theme of tearing down walls that divide us, Merkel addressed the modern "walls" that must be realized in oder to successfully promote proactive international relationships in our modern, global age.

I am convinced that, just as we found the strength in the 20th century to tear down a wall made of barbed wire and concrete, today we have the strength to overcome the walls of the 21st century, walls in our minds, walls of short-sighted self-interest, walls between the present and the future.

Merkel's address was moving and powerful in reminding America, Germany and the entire world just how important the connection between America and German has been and still is, and why this connection must be appreciated and respected so that the nations can work together still as great allies in the future.

Merkel also met with President Obama to address many topics ranging from enviroment, to Afghanistan, to the economic crisis.

The address to Congress given by Merkel on November 3rd was very captivating, and truly represents many of the unique opinons, topics in history, and political debates that I am witnessing and partaking in everyday as a student living and working abroad in Germany. I will be posting the links to the YouTube videos of the address, as well as a transcript of the speech at the bottom of this post.

Merkel concluded her historically important address by focusing on the liberty bell in Berlin, a gift from America since 1950, an exact copy of the bell in Philadelphia, and the history and symbolism that it represents.

The Freedom Bell in Berlin is, like the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, a symbol which reminds us that freedom does not come about of itself. It must be struggled for and then defended anew every day of our lives. In this endeavor Germany and Europe will also in future remain strong and dependable partners for America.

That I promise you.

Links -

Address Transcript

No comments:

Post a Comment