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Challenges and Reflections: The American Ambassador’s Parting Thoughts.

Berlin, Atlantik-Brücke, February 25, 2005



My thanks to the Atlantik Brucke for its continued efforts in addressing the questions that are at the foundation of our transatlantic relationship --- a relationship that is so special and so unique. I would also like to thank the Atlantik Brucke for its willingness to host my final speech in Germany and to Deutsche Telekom for allowing us to use this historic venue.

My greetings as well to members of the Bundestag and the government present here today and to my fellow ambassadors with whom I have had the privilege of serving. I acknowledge our Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Cloud, who will be serving as Chargé until such time as the new American Ambassador arrives in Berlin, and also four of our Consulate Generals, Mr. Bodde, Mr. Knowles, Mr. Rooney, and Mr. Burton. I thank them for their excellent service to me personally and to the American Mission here in Germany.

When Marsha and I arrived in Berlin in September 2001, just days before September 11, we had certain expectations as to what my role would be as Ambassador of the United States to Germany. The tragic events of September 11 changed some those expectations very dramatically.

As Ambassador, not yet accredited, I was thrust into a position that demanded a great deal of attention to matters related to the response of the United States and Germany to the 21st century challenge of terrorism. President Rau asked me immediately to come to Schloß Bellevue and officially present my papers, well ahead of the time that we had scheduled and without the formality that usually goes with accreditation. I think I am probably the only Ambassador in the history of Germany who rushed to the palace in suit and tie, instead of tails and top hat. President Rau greeted me warmly and said that we needed an official American Ambassador right away and that we should skip the formalities. As someone who doesn't always relish wearing all the “formalities,” I didn't mind at all.

This has been an extraordinary time for all of us. We had strong differences of opinion -- differences of both substance and style -- on the issue of Iraq that affected our relationship. But with the President’s visit to Mainz two days ago, and Dr. Rice's visit here just a week before, we have reconfirmed the importance of this German-American partnership. These visits were two very important steps in restoring the lost unity of the Atlantic Alliance and focusing our attention together on the great challenges of our age. “Our relationship is founded on more than nostalgia,” the President observed, “In a new century, the alliance of Europe and North America must be the main pillar of our security.” We have, as Secretary Rice said, opened a new chapter in the story of this remarkable Alliance.

When the President outlined his foreign policy strategy for his second term in office, he said, "The first great commitment is to defend our security and spread freedom by building effective multinational and multilateral institutions and supporting effective multilateral action." He underlined the determination of the United States to work as far as possible within the framework of international organizations, recognizing that the tasks of the 21st century -- fighting terrorism, the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, responding to natural disasters like the tsunami tragedy in Asia, combating the scourge of HIV/AIDS, countering poverty and hunger, and more -- cannot be accomplished by a single nation alone.

Working together on a multilateral basis is, of course, always the preferred method of resolving problems. But we also have to recognize that we will not always be able to achieve consensus or achieve it in a timely manner. To then do nothing in response to a major problem or challenge to stability or security merely makes a bad problem worse. This was clearly the case with conflicts in the Balkans, in Rwanda, in Darfur -- where failure to act on a timely basis resulted in the needless death of countless innocent people.

And so the lesson must be that, yes, we want to work together and we must work together, but, as the President has said, "the success of multilateralism is measured not merely by following a process, but by achieving results."

The re-inauguration of President Bush and his State of the Union speech were events that marked the end of a divisive election campaign. They gave rise to a new hope of unified national purpose in the United States. The President’s over-riding message was that America’s vital interests and ideals need to be and must be closely related.

The weeks since the U.S. presidential elections have brought an extraordinary number of significant events. The Palestinian elections opened what we all hope will be a new era of negotiation and cooperation, with a Palestinian nation-state and a state of Israel living in peace. In Iraq, millions of voters defied terrorist violence. In the face of extraordinary challenge and threat, they had the courage to support democracy.

Consistent with the President's policy to combat terrorism will be a continued effort to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. In recent years, we have witnessed an alarming spread of nuclear weapon capability, with dangerous potential consequences. The captured files of Dr. Kahn, the Pakistani nuclear scientist, alerted us to a widespread illegal transfer of nuclear weapons technology to a number of rogue and irresponsible states and possibly to non-aligned individual groups.

We share great concerns about Iran and its continued pursuit of nuclear weapon capability. We support the efforts of France, Germany and Great Britain to address this question and attain a cessation of all Iranian activity to produce nuclear weapons; but to date, while some progress has been made, Iran has not fully complied with the EU3 demands. This issue is a major challenge to both our nations, and an early test of the commitment to work together to find a mutually acceptable solution.

I mentioned the President's initiative to bring peace to the Middle East. This is an opportunity that we must seize; an opportunity that we sense is the best chance that we have seen in a very long time to achieve a solution to a long difficult problem.

These and other foreign policy issues will be significant challenges and we must work together to achieve unity of purpose and success. They are no less daunting than the challenges that we faced together during the Cold War. They will require us to adapt to new circumstances -- and we are in the process of doing just that. We stood together through the long, dark days of the Cold War. We prevailed because we remained united in purpose. We remained consistent and persevered through difficult times. Our crowning achievement was the fall of the Wall here in Berlin, not far from where we stand today.

I believe very strongly that even when we have differences or disagreements, we have to be able to debate them and discuss them in an open and honest way. After all, democracy itself -- our most common value -- is the process of debate and discussion and overcoming differences; and so it shouldn't be surprising that democracies in their international relations go through the same kind of process. The lesson of democracy is one that accompanied my career in the U.S. Congress and it has been valuable during my time here as Ambassador to Germany.

If I could, I'd like to depart from policy issues and express a few of my thoughts and reflections on our three and a half years here in Germany. Marsha and I will depart with feelings both of deep gratitude for this most remarkable time in our lives, as well as sadness over leaving this land and the many new friends we have made. We will return to America with anticipation for what is ahead, but also with regret over what we must leave behind.

Within days of arriving three and a half years ago, I found myself standing at the Brandenburg Gate in front of over 200,000 Germans and speaking to a nationwide television audience to express the profound gratitude of Americans for the outpouring of sympathy and support that the German people had expressed through their tears, flowers, condolences and gifts to the victims in New York and Washington. Many Germans expressed their desire to help us in our time of need just as we had helped Germany in its time of need. I would like to underscore how much the U.S. Mission in Germany and the American community here appreciated the sentiments the people of Germany expressed to us in the days and hours after those tragic events.

I will never forget the words of Interior Minister Otto Schily, when I first met him to begin coordinating our efforts to respond to this new challenge. He invited me to his private office, and shared with me his personal story. He was 12 years old, he said, when he realized that the war was over and the Americans were about to enter his town. He was convinced that they were going to kill all the Germans, because he believed this is what happened when you lost a war. That was O.K., he said, because all the townspeople were starving and didn't expect to live long anyway.
But instead of entering the town with guns in their hands, the Americans arrived with food in their arms. Since that time, he said, he has never spent a day without thinking of this act of kindness to a people who had started a war. And so, he said, whatever you Americans ask for in terms of cooperation, I will do my best to help you.

His story expressed the views of many, many Germans. We will always remember these and other heart-warming stories of American-German friendships that emerged from the ashes of World War Two. We have enjoyed a remarkable friendship. We worked together to overcome the dark days of the Cold War. Americans cheered the German Wirtschaftswunder, and supported a re-united Germany, whole, free and at peace with its neighbors. We support the expansion of the EU, and as the President reaffirmed in Mainz, we support the growth of a strong EU to work with the United States on the challenging issues that face us.

Thus it was all the more difficult and disheartening to be the American Ambassador during the time of such a serious breach in our relationship beginning with your federal election in 2002. This most successful post-war partnership was severely put to the test. Many, on both sides of the Atlantic, were deeply concerned. Today, thankfully, we are both working to strengthen our relationship, to better understand each other, and define ways we can work together on the difficult challenges.

The recent visits of both the President and our new Secretary of State symbolize the sincere desire of Americans to put these differences behind us. We look forward to a future of working together.

Marsha and I don't want to leave the impression that our time here has been all work and no personal enjoyment. We have enjoyed living in Berlin. We will miss walking our dog in the Grünewald, going to the movies at Potsdamer Platz, playing golf and tennis with new German friends. We have become fans of Hertha BSC, Alba Berlin, the Eisbären and Berlin Thunder. We have enjoyed cheering for the Germans as they attempt to bring championships to the city. But we decided early on that getting "outside Berlin" and seeing and engaging in the rest of Germany was also important if we were to better understand your country and its people.

Of course, we made regular visits to our Consulates in Frankfurt, Leipzig, Düsseldorf, Hamburg and Munich, meeting with key government officials, business leaders and the leaders of important institutions. These were valuable learning experiences and gave us considerable insights to life beyond Berlin. The Consuls General are here and I want to thank them for all the fine work that they have done to allow us to fully experience the areas of their jurisdiction and responsibility.

Visits to various other sites in Germany, some for official reasons and some for personal reasons, helped paint a broader picture of this surprisingly diverse and very interesting nation. I keep a large wall map of Germany in my office at our Residence in Dahlem, on which I have placed a pin identifying the cities and villages and other sites which we visited for official reasons – to greet the mayor, talk to the Minister-President, or speak to a chamber of commerce, Atlantik Brücke or university or school group. I counted the pins as we were packing to send things back to the United States and there were over 200 pins on that map -- 200 separate sites that we have visited in Germany, mostly for official business with a little sightseeing thrown in. Each pin holds a very special memory, a distinct view of Germany -- its landscape, its history, its culture, and its people. This is a land of beauty with a rich culture, a healthy environment, educated people, and a truly amazing history.

From Rügen to Rothenburg, from Hamburg to Heidelberg, from Freiburg to Frankfurt an der Oder, from Sylt to the Zugspitze, from Bremen to the Bodensee, we have visited your cities and your villages. We have traveled the Rhine and the Mosel, listened to Tannhäuser in Bayreuth, Don Giovanni in Munich, Britten in Peenemünde, Bach in Leipzig and Beethoven in Berlin. We have been in your cathedrals and your Brauhäuser, walked in your forests, sailed on your seas, visited your factories and farms, universities and museums. We have eaten your Spargel, Streusel and Spätzle, drunk your wine and beer, enjoyed your Kaffee, Kuchen and even your Kraut.

But it's your people: die Berliner, die Bayern, die Rheinlander, die Sachsen, die Schwaben, die Mecklenburger -- um nur einige zu nennen -- that leave the most lasting impressions.

We have made friends for life, visited your homes and places of work. We have tried to learn your language. Is it die, der or das? Is the verb first, last, in the middle, or somewhere else? You have been most kind and patient in this regard, saying, "That's alright, let's speak in English." Not every culture would be that understanding.

Thus, for all the memories we will take with us, and all the things we will miss, the most difficult task in these remaining days is saying goodbye to the many Germans who have received us kindly and offered the hand of friendship.

We didn’t want to depart without leaving something behind. First, after more than a decade of effort, we have begun the building of a beautiful new American Embassy on Pariser Platz, next to the Brandenburg Gate.

Future generations will view these two structures as important symbols of the continued presence and commitment of America to the nation of Germany and the transatlantic relationship, and the partnership that our two nations share.

Frankfurt will become the home of the soon-to-be completed massive Regional Center housing both our Consulate and a large number of U.S. agencies. The Regional Center will service not only Germany and Europe, but all of Africa and parts of the Middle East and beyond.

The Embassy here and our five Consulates are staffed by some of our very best and most qualified foreign service officers and local employees. Many of them are here today. They will continue their extensive operations in Germany. Our outreach programs, including new initiatives to the former Eastern states, will continue and be accelerated. Most important of all, our dedication to sustaining the very special bond between America and Germany will continue to be our number one priority.

In closing, I would also like to share with you a few observations as well as my hopes for Germany and its future. In doing so, I trust you will receive my thoughts and remarks as those of a friend of Germany, as one who has treasured his time here, and one who truly desires the best for this nation.

Addressing the global challenges of the 21st century -- terrorism, nuclear proliferation, rogue states, failing states, natural disasters, hunger, poverty, international crime, disease, globalization, and other matters -- will require unity of purpose and commitment by the world's major nations.

If there is a common denominator to addressing these challenges, it is that all can be addressed, at least in substantial part, by the spread of freedom and democracy to the affected countries. This is the centerpiece of President Bush’s foreign policy, and is a guiding principle around which I believe Germans and Americans can unite as we seek a safer and more prosperous world.

In his speech at Whitehall in November of 2003, President Bush said, "Great responsibilities fall once again to the great democracies." Germany is a great democracy. Few nations have the capacity of Germany to join with the United States and just a few others around the world to address these challenges. And so it falls to us in America and to you in Germany to do what is necessary to make this world a safer and better place.

We have much to do in America to prepare us for this task. As President Bush made clear in his State of the Union address, we are prepared to rethink core aspects of our own society, like education, health care, retirement financing and immigration, to ensure that we will be ready to meet these challenges. As we have always done in our history, we want to meet challenges together with foreign partners. Allow me to make a few observations and recommendations as to what I believe Germany should consider doing to better position itself for its role in this global effort.

First and foremost, please take the issue of international terrorism and the spread of nuclear weapons seriously, very seriously. Each of these is a direct threat to the very foundations of our democratic societies. The combination of these two threats could have catastrophic world consequences. We must act, and act now, to prevent this from occurring. Less than full engagement in addressing this threat cannot be an option.

Second, don't fear change. When the status quo is unacceptable, dare to change it. Change can be painful, but it is necessary and it can lead us to a fuller and better future.

Third, restore your economy. Achieve a second Wirtschaftswunder, as Michael Rogowski, the retiring head of BDI, suggests in his new book. You did it once from the ashes of World War II and it can be done again. Germany’s people have the level of education and the talent that can bring about a second Wirtschaftswunder. You are beginning reforms now, and these are to be applauded. A Germany that is busy innovating, trading and investing is good for the United States, good for Europe, and good for the world.

Fourth, be very skeptical of those who paint a vision of Europe as a counter-weight to America. A divided Europe and America is a prescription for failure.

Fifth, NATO is a proven and time-tested alliance, and Germany is essential to a strong and effective NATO. Don't ignore NATO, don't weaken it or replace it, strengthen it.

Sixth, strengthen and transform your Bundeswehr. No nation can exercise world influence by words alone -- peace and stability will require military significance and presence.

Seventh, show a little patriotism. Many people fear their weaknesses. Germans seem to be afraid of their strengths. A self-confident German identity coupled with modesty and without denying the past, can be constructive and appreciated by the world.

Eighth, do not let this remarkable German-American relationship fail. We have come too far together, and we have so much to do ahead. We must not allow anyone or anything to divide us.

Finally, it is my hope that once again faith become an integral part of the German people and their national identity; that Germans re-discover the importance of the church, of faith-based organizations in communities and neighbors that can minister to the soul, provide help to the helpless, comfort to the sick and needy, and strength to the weak; and that God be seen as the ultimate source of wisdom and His blessings be sought for Germany and its people.

My friends, there are so many people to thank. Germans from all walks of life, public and private, have provided advice, counsel, and most important of all, friendship.

Our personal staff, drivers and German security personnel have become like family, and we will dearly miss each one of them.

Staff members at the Embassy and Consulates around the country have demonstrated an unqualified commitment to advancing German-American relations. Whatever I might have achieved in my time here is in no small part due to their wonderful support.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge and personally thank my dear wife Marsha, who has done so much to support my efforts here. Without any official recognition or reward, she has effectively engaged in many projects and initiatives that have furthered our relationship. Her always positive spirit, her optimism and encouragement have been an inspiration to me and to all those she has encountered on this remarkable journey we have experienced.

And so, my dear friends, we say good-bye to this good land and its good people. We return to our beloved country, but part of us will always remain here. May God's light shine upon us all.

Many thanks, my friends. Vielen Dank, meine Freunde.

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Updated: April 2005