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Duty & Responsibility - German-American Relations

Speech by Ambassador Timken,
Berlin, September 29, 2005


I want to express my thanks to everyone for the extremely warm welcome that Sue and I, and our daughter, Fran, have received during the past six weeks. We look forward to meeting those of you we have not yet met in person. I appreciate the Academy and the Institute co-hosting this, my first opportunity to speak before the public.

I would like to thank the German people and the German government, on behalf of all Americans, for their pledges of support and for the sincere, heartfelt condolences in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The German business community has also been very generous. The response from Germany is an example of the strength of our long-term relationship based upon the humanity and compassion that unites all of us.

Last week, the Dresden State Orchestra of Saxony and the Houston Symphony gave a joint concert in Houston for the victims of Hurricane Katrina and for the volunteers who have worked so long and so hard to assist in recovery efforts. This morning I met with Saxony's Minister-President Milbradt who attended the concert in Houston to thank him for arranging it and for giving it his personal attention. He told me that the stories of the suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina especially touched the people of Saxony who, as you know, experienced devastating flooding along the Elbe in 2002. They received help from the United States and around the world; and now Germany is assisting hurricane relief efforts in the Gulf region in many ways, but as Saxony’s Minister-President told me, with this concert, they wanted to say something to the people's spirit, they wanted to say “we stand by you.”

There are many examples in history of how the United States and Germany have stood together -- both in spirit and in deeds. It is a great honor for me to represent my country here. My main goal as Ambassador is simple. As the President's "man on the ground," it is to carry out the mandate that President Bush established last winter in Mainz when he met with Chancellor Schroeder, namely to build on and improve the bilateral relationship between our two great nations.

That will require the efforts of people in both governments at all levels. And when I say government, I include the Länder, the 50 U.S. state governments and all the people at local levels of government. It will require the efforts of all those who are stakeholders in this German-American partnership.

Who are those stakeholders? Well, for a start, everybody in this room. Our hosts tonight, of course, the American Academy and the Aspen Institute, and all the many fine research and bi-national institutions that focus on transatlantic relations.

Stakeholders in the relationship also include the business community, and for me, that means the hundreds of thousands of German employees of American companies located here and the hundreds of thousands of Americans who work for German companies in the United States - from the "Praktikant" up to the CEO. The scientists on both sides of the Atlantic who provide the new technology that feeds innovation need to work together closely.

I believe the media has a responsibility, a responsibility to cover the success stories, not just the problem zones, in the German-American relationship.

Educational institutions on both sides of the Atlantic also play an important role, especially the thousands of German and American students who take part in exchanges each year. These young people are the future of our partnership.

As active participants, we all must work together in a spirit of consultation and cooperation, identifying and developing multiple points of positive connection between people to ensure that we not lose sight of our common goals. We will not always be able to move in lockstep but we cannot allow problems to divide us. It is important that we use our combined strengths and our diversity to address the challenges of the 21st century.

As a new administration is put in place in the German government, we have an opportunity to re-confirm the spirit of Mainz. One of the President’s main purposes in coming to Europe last February, as he stated, was to listen. And as the new Ambassador in Germany, I am also here to listen. I ask for your help, your ideas as I start my new job. From today, we should be looking out the front window of the automobile, not the rear window.

Let me begin by telling you something about myself -- and what I stand for. As many of you know, I am one of the 40 million Americans with German ancestry. My great-grandfather, as an 8 year-old German farm boy, arrived in the port of New Orleans in 1838, after shipping out from the port of Bremerhaven.

I am an American businessman with first-hand experience in the transatlantic and the global business community. I have lived in Europe and have worked with Europeans for more than forty years. As the CEO of the company that my great-grandfather established more than 100 years ago, my mission was to transform an Ohio-based and focused company into a competitive, multinational global operation. For the last 83 years, the Timken Company has been traded on the New York Stock Exchange, and currently has more than 50,000 shareholders. Today amongst engineers and manufacturers, Timken is a famous global brand.

I have served on a number of national and international trade organizations and have been involved in efforts to partner with government at all levels to foster growth and innovation. A few years ago, I chaired the National Association of Manufacturers. It is an industrial trade organization that serves 18 million American workers. One of my main missions as chairman was to encourage manufacturers and their employees to play a more active role in the development of public policy by becoming part of the political process. Nobody understands better than manufacturers, their employees and the private sector what policies are good for the economy. The private sector cannot stand on the sidelines and watch. It cannot afford to leave politics to the politicians.

I have tried to practice what I preach.
When I talk with colleagues and associates about becoming involved in politics, most often I have borrowed a statement from John Gardner, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson. This is the way he put it, and it made sense to me: "Freedom and liberty. Duty and responsibility. That's the deal." This applies to individuals. This applies to nations.

Citizen participation in politics and government ensures transparency, effectiveness, responsiveness and accountability. It also integrates with civil society in the United States. Many of the services provided in Europe by governments funded through taxes are secured in the United States through the private sector, nongovernmental organizations and volunteers. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the most powerful natural disaster ever to hit the United States, the community response was phenomenal. Much work remains to be done, and the rebuilding will take time, but a good start has been made thanks in large part to the vibrancy of U.S. civil society.

Having been involved in American politics for the past 40 years, it certainly has been fascinating for me to observe Germany's intense election campaign - and even more intense post-election negotiations. Coming from a business background, I am deeply aware of the importance of the labor market and other structural economic reforms Germany is considering. We have had to face some of the very same issues in America in today's rapidly changing global economy.

The United States has a strong interest in renewed German prosperity. Our economies are increasingly interwoven. The German and American private sectors have huge investments in each other's economies. The U.S. is the number one destination for German foreign direct investment; and American investment is the third largest source of foreign direct investment in Germany, providing over 15% of all FDI invested in Germany. Two-way trade in goods is a staggering more than $100 billion per year. Government alone does not make this relationship happen. It is the strength of large and dynamic private sectors on both sides of the Atlantic that make the economic relationship what it is.

The United States shares with Germany a critical interest in strengthening economic growth and prosperity around the world. Our experience over the last half-century has shown that when the United States and Germany work together, we are a powerful force in support of peace, prosperity and democracy.

Democracy requires building the institutions that sustain the ideals of freedom and liberty. Democratic nations contribute to peace and stability because they seek the greatness of their citizens, not the conquest of their neighbors. Democratic nations grow in strength because they reward and respect the creative achievements of their people. Democratic nations uphold the rule of law, impose limits on the power of the state, and treat women and minorities as full citizens. Democratic nations protect private property; protect free speech and religious expression. Truly democratic nations have always been on the positive side of world history.

On September 18, the same day German citizens exercised their rights and went to the polls, the first parliamentary elections in 36 years were held in Afghanistan. This was another very important step in the quest of President Karzai and the Afghan people to establish a fully functioning democracy. We, collectively, have supported a truly historic event.

On October 15, Iraqi voters are scheduled to go to the polls for a national referendum to determine the fate of the proposed democratic constitution drafted by the Transitional National Assembly. Between Afghanistan and Iraq, more than 60 million human beings have been freed from despotic rule and are choosing their own future.

And in Gaza, the withdrawal of nearly 8,000 settlers - a courageous political act by the Israeli government - will allow the Palestinians there to govern themselves. Free parliamentary elections for all Palestinians are due in January. Perhaps, just perhaps, we can see the end of tragedy in this troubled region.

These elections - and there are other examples -- represent great opportunities in the cause of human freedom. As President Bush pointed out in his address to the United Nations earlier this month, "Across the world, hearts and minds are opening to the message of human liberty as never before. In the last two years alone, tens of millions have voted in free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, in Kyrgyzstan, in Ukraine, and Georgia." This should bring great joy to those of us in the West who have enjoyed for so long this type of liberty.

In Iraq, in particular, it is easy to lose sight of what is happening on the political front. It is a very difficult process, taking place under the skeptical eye of the world media and under threat of violence from totalitarian insurgents and fanatical foreign fundamentalists. But there is an inexorable political process going on. These terrorists have made life violent and dangerous for the Iraqi population but they have not been able to derail a political process that will certainly lead over time to a government of the people's choice. Throughout the country, Iraqi men and women are registering to vote, political parties are forming, and candidates are stepping forward.

Some may say that progress is too slow. But remember, in postwar Germany, the first West German parliamentary elections were not held until August 1949.

Whatever our differences were on Iraq in the past, Europe and America together are supporting Iraqis as they build their institutions of freedom. We must help them with economic reconstruction and development. We must help them through political and other support. And we in America appreciate the German government's commitment to these efforts.

During the Cold War, faced with the challenge of totalitarian communist regimes, earlier generations of Europeans and Americans confronted hateful ideologies by remaining strong and united. Today, Europeans and Americans, as President Bush said in Brussels last February, "can once again set history on a hopeful course -- away from poverty and despair, and toward development and the dignity of self-rule; away from resentment and violence, and toward justice and the peaceful settlement of differences."

The challenges we face today are no less daunting than those we faced during the Cold War. The responsibility of the transatlantic partners in this new century is to put that relationship to work for common objectives based on our common values.

And we are working together effectively in many ways.

The United States and Europe are working together on reform in the broader Middle East. A couple of years ago, there was skepticism as to whether this was even a proper avenue of collaboration for Europe and the United States. Now the United States and Europe, instead of debating whether we should be doing it, are discussing how to do it -- and how to do it together.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both Europe and America have a common vision: two peaceful, democratic states living side by side. The historic decision to withdraw from Gaza required political courage on the part of Prime Minister Sharon. Both the Israeli and Palestinian governments deserve credit for bringing the process to a successful conclusion. Excellent security coordination and cooperation allowed the withdrawal to take place peacefully and effectively. Making the withdrawal work will require our efforts to demonstrate to both sides that peace works. For Israelis, that means improved security; for the Palestinians, improved economic standards.

In Afghanistan, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, German soldiers stood shoulder-to-shoulder with U.S. forces tracking down the Taliban and al Qaida remnants in Afghanistan. Since then, we have seen the adoption of a new constitution, presidential elections and, two weeks ago, thanks to NATO efforts to provide greater security, successful parliamentary elections. It was the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan in late 2001 that established the process for political reconstruction. And tt present, Germany provides the second largest military contingent in Afghanistan and plays a vital role in stabilizing the northern part of that country. And as we all know, just yesterday, that position was reaffirmed. As a result of these efforts, Afghanistan is building a democracy that reflects Afghan traditions and history, and shows the way for other nations in the region.

All nations have an interest in the success of a free and democratic Iraq, which will fight terror and which will be a source of true stability in the region. In the past months, Iraq's newly elected assembly has carried out the important work of establishing a government, providing security, enhancing basic services, and writing a democratic constitution. Germany provided significant debt relief to the fledgling Iraqi government and is currently providing valuable training for Iraqi police and security personnel in the neighboring United Arab Emirates.

In Iran, the free world shares a common goal: For the sake of peace, the Iranian regime must end support for terrorism, and must not develop nuclear weapons. One of the concrete results of President Bush's meetings last winter with Europeans was a new clarity of purpose in the European negotiations with Iran. The President listened. And now we are working closely with Britain, France and Germany as they oppose Iran's nuclear ambitions, and as they insist that Tehran comply with international law.

These are just a few examples of how the United States and Europe are working together.

The challenges of the 21st century -- confronting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, global terrorism, tyranny, poverty, hunger and disease -- are simply too large for any one nation to solve alone. We can achieve much more by acting together than any of us can do on our own.

The postwar German-American partnership is said to be the greatest diplomatic success story in modern history. It was the keystone to the remarkable changes that led to the building of a Europe, whole, free and at peace. Now is the time to put this alliance to work for those whose aspirations of freedom and prosperity have yet to be met. A free and prosperous world will be the best security for our children and our grandchildren.

Vielen Dank.

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  U.S. Diplomatic Mission to Germany /Public Affairs/ Information Resource Centers  
Updated: December 2005