by Ambassador Timken at the 60th Anniversary of the Amerika Haus in Munich
Consul General Charbonneau,
I come here today as the direct representative of the President of the United States and the people of America.
I am proud to be here on their behalf as we celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Amerika Haus in Munich. I wish to congratulate all who have contributed to this very noble cause of transatlantic partnership today, and over the years.
60 years ago, this city and the countryside around it was still devastated by 6 years of war. Recognizing that German civil society had been similarly ruined, not only by the war but by more than a decade of censorship, indoctrination and terror, the United States founded Munich Amerika Haus amongst a network of Amerika Hauses around Germany. Our objective was to foster a rebirth of Germany’s traditional civic culture. These Hauses were not met to be just more propaganda. They were meant to be beacons of light where Germans could rediscover what we take for granted today – that freedom of information is the taproot of freedom itself, and civic culture the cornerstone of democracy.
Eight years ago, with freedom and democracy firmly established in western Europe, and rapidly spreading eastward and southward, we began -- this time, together with our German partners -- to transform our Amerika Haus structure for the new historical context. The Bavarian-American Center was established as a successor institution to Amerika Haus. Thanks to the support of the state of Bavaria, an active group of sponsors have worked to create an organization built on the Amerika Haus tradition. This anniversary is proof of the vibrancy and flexibility of the Bavarian-American Center. Based on a strong model of public-private partnership, the institute has provided an umbrella for many initiatives. Now, under the leadership of Raimund Lammersdorf, it is charting the way for new models of cooperation.
Today, we rededicate the Bavarian-American Center at Amerika Haus -- as a partnership, trans-Atlantic and public/private, for the coming 60 years. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the board and the staff of the Bavarian-American Center. I have always believed that citizen participation in politics and government ensures transparency, effectiveness, responsiveness and accountability. The stakes are too high to leave government just to the politicians. I am convinced that a strong network of policymakers, researchers, academics, journalists, nonprofit leaders, and business leaders is one of the cornerstones of transatlantic partnership. I am especially appreciative of the ongoing efforts of the Bavarian-American Center to educate the next generation of German leaders on the importance of the transatlantic relationship through the institution's library, school and exchange activities.
The ties that bind Americans and Europeans are not just connections based on political and economic interests. Europe remains central not just to American foreign policy and trade, but to our very idea of who we are. A large percentage of Americans have European ancestry, including my wife and myself.
In the years following World War II, Americans and Europeans joined together to build a new structure for peace. It was with Germany that the new postwar definition of our world was built. Germany had much in common with the United States before 1933 but following World War II, it was not possible simply to resume where we had left off. We had to build something completely new.
The United States believed strongly in the goal of a united Germany and the vision of a new integrated Europe. That vision must now be carried a step further. The world has again changed fundamentally. New concepts are required.
We will not always agree. But in the large majority of cases, America and Germany, can play a central role in discussing or bridging the issues. Our common agenda now encompasses virtually every important issue of our time. We are truly partners who are indispensable to each other and to the world.
During the year I served as chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers, I started every speech with a reality check to highlight the strengths of manufacturing in America. Now, I conduct a similar reality check on the German-American relationship. Our business people and our scientists are defining a common reality based on integrated efforts. Coming from the private sector, I know that the transatlantic relationship is mutually beneficial, dynamic and open to innovation and opportunity. And so that is my message as I travel around Germany.
And I find myself in good company.
When Chancellor Merkel spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, she said she went around the country repeating the same idea -- that growth requires freedom. She went on to say, and I quote, "This means releasing brakes and removing obstacles, it means opening the windows to let in some fresh air, and seeing the opportunities created by development rather than concentrating on the risks. This is freedom with responsibility - not freedom from anything but rather freedom to take action." Unquote.
That pretty well describes the new climate in Germany -- and the new climate in German-American relations. We have indeed had a breath of fresh air.
When Chancellor Merkel visited Washington at the start of the year, her discussions with President Bush were wide ranging, covering both issues of high importance to our two countries, as well as personal insights, such as her recollections of growing up in the former East Germany. They spent more than 3 hours together. I had the chance to observe their interaction, and, in my estimation, the duration and substantive content of the discussion between them were symbolic of a new era of dialogue and friendship.
Chancellor Merkel stood at the White House alongside President Bush and stated her commitment to advancing freedom throughout the world. Her words of common purpose -- in Washington, in Davos, in Munich at the Security Conference, and elsewhere -- reflect the reality of transatlantic cooperation today. As a result of a series of very productive visits over the past year starting with the President's visit to Brussels and Mainz in February 2005 and including the Chancellor's visit to Washington in January, transatlantic partners are now moving on through candid discussions of the complex challenges of the 21st century to build a common view, express that view in the world, and -- most importantly -- act on it.
Just as the Cold War was different from a traditional war and required new strategies, we are examining the best means for dealing with the war on terrorism in a world threatened by terrorists whose stated aim is to kill innocent civilians. Whatever our differences were on Iraq, Europe and America are now moving forward together taking positive, constructive action.
The strong ties between our countries have built one of the world's most valuable strategic partnerships. Our job now is to take that relationship to the next level. We have constructed a common framework for cooperation. It should be allowed to work. There is no monopoly on good ideas.
That is why it is so important that institutions like the Bavarian-American Center succeed. The key message that came out of the meeting between President Bush and Chancellor Merkel -- the importance of honest and direct dialogue between friends.
That is the spirit on which we have succeeded in the past, and that will be the key to the successful future of U.S.-German relations.
Thank you very much.
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Updated: April 2006