of the American Embassy
As prepared for deliveryThank you for your warm welcome, and my thanks to my dear friend Ambassador Tim Timken for that kind introduction.
As someone who is very proud to be an honorary Berliner, I am not only honored, but indeed moved, to be here for this very special occasion.
Today, we fit one of the last pieces of a historic puzzle back into place, and the reality it lays bear – a new American Embassy, in the capital of a unified Germany, sitting in the heart of a Europe that is indeed whole and free and at peace – is, in fact, a great and noble dream realized.
Nearly seven decades have passed since American diplomats have occupied this special plot of soil, and now you have returned to work side-by-side with our German friends to advance the common cause of humanity.
To my fellow Americans, let me simply say, “Welcome home.” Much has changed since the stars and stripes last flew here.
First came the onset of the second World War, and the horrors it cast throughout the continent – and beyond. The Cold War followed, setting the German people onto two painfully separate paths.
A time of testing ensued – a test of wills between two different ideologies, trying but ultimately affirming our commitment to freedom and the alliance of free peoples that would sustain it.
Then came the Fall of 89, and a hopeful revolution. Germans, Poles, Czechs, Hungarians – each seized fate in their own hands, and together they changed the mighty course of history.
Throughout the long, bitter night of the Cold War, while others wavered, you, the German people, kept alive the embers of faith – faith in your country, faith in each other. You never betrayed the eternal, immutable truth that you are one people – in language, in heritage, and in destiny.
The sense of possibility that the improbable events of 1989 and 1990 ignited put the thaw to the Cold War, and to the places, progress, and attitudes that that necessary struggle had, in essence, frozen in time.
As the popular song at the time suggested, we were indeed “watching the world wake up from history.” And as the first light of a new era broke, let history record that Germany and America took decisive action together, and righted a historic wrong, and helped heal a nation torn.
Of the many dramatic developments to unfold during my presidency, let me state here and now that the unification of Germany was the single-most important. It ended the division not only Germany, but of Europe – and made possible the era of relative peace and prosperity we have known since then.
Of course, I was but one of a continuum of American presidents, and other key allies, who stood vigilant watch over this cause, your cause. On the other side of the Atlantic, I think particularly of my friends Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney, and superb colleagues like Brent Scowcroft and Jim Baker.
On this side of the Atlantic, I would be horribly remiss if I did not single out my esteemed friend, Helmut Kohl, as well as our adversary-come-partner in this historic endeavor, Mikhail Gorbachev. History will remember these two seminal leaders as men of rare vision, and singular courage.
Since unification, Germany has continued to lead the way forward as one of the prime engines of global economic growth.
So, too, has Germany risen from the ashes of hatred and intolerance to become a model of an open, dynamic society – devoted to the freedoms and values that unite civilized persons the world over.
Most importantly, perhaps, as the world struggles to keep pace with the relentless pace and scope of global change, Germany is providing key leadership in the EU, NATO, and the other major multilateral organizations influencing peace and prosperity in the 21st Century.
Forty-five years ago, almost to the day, President Kennedy stood not far from here and defied the world to “come to Berlin” – to bear witness to the social and political injustices of that distant time. How far we – and our world – have come since that uncertain day. Lest there be any doubt: we have been able to come this far, because both countries made the strategic decision that it would serve the greatest good if we walked that challenging, perilous path together.
Last November, at a ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the Marshall Plan, Chancellor Merkel rightly observed that “the friendly ties between Europe and the United States are unique and without alternative … together as partners we are strong. We have seen so much good. Together we enjoy the freedom to shoulder responsibility and we have the responsibility to embrace freedom.”
Madame Chancellor, I cannot think of a more meaningful way to celebrate the birth in freedom in America this year than to be here, celebrating with you this symbolic re-birth of our diplomatic ties, now 211 years strong. Like many others, I believe the US-Germany relationship today is the strongest it has ever been – and Chancellor Merkel’s strong partnership with the 43rd President of the United States is a principal reason we can say that.
Maybe the pilots who flew in the Berlin Airlift had a similar phrase, but standing here today reminds me of a saying we had back when I was a Navy pilot called: Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited. That’s what you wanted to hear when you got to the flight deck, and prepared to set out on your mission.
Ceiling and visibility unlimited.
Ladies and gentlemen, my fellow Americans, to our German hosts, when I think of the strong and enduring friendship that binds our two great nations, as I look to our shared future and the boundless promise it holds, I am happy to report that conditions are, in fact, Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited.
May Almighty God bless free and united Germany; your steadfast ally, the United States; and our work together on behalf of peace and freedom everywhere. Thank you very much.
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Diplomatic Mission to Germany
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Updated: July 2008