Side by Side


I Hope It Will Be a Foundation of a Lasting Friendship


I hope It Will Be a Foundation of a Lasting Friendship

Hans Martin Bury, Minister of State at the Federal Chancellery
February 16, 2002

On behalf of the German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder I welcome you to Germany. I am Hans Martin Bury, Minister of State to the Federal Chancellor. I hope you had a smooth flight with the German Airforce.

I imagine that it was an unusual carrier for you.

Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who invited you to Germany, will meet you in Berlin at the Chancellery next Tuesday and will welcome you personally. I am sure you will enjoy that evening.

You are the first group of a thousand young New Yorkers invited to Germany by the German Chancellor. When he visited New York after the eleventh of September he was very moved when he saw "Ground Zero".

As a token of German-American friendship and solidarity, Chancellor Schröder extended an invitation to former Mayor Giuliani for one thousand young people from New York to visit Germany. This was the origin of "The Bridge New York - Berlin".

Today, your previous Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, will be awarded the German Media Prize for his courageous and compassionate behavior and action during the difficult time following the eleventh of September.

Through his determination and leadership after the catastrophe of September 11th, Mayor Giuliani demonstrated that, in spite of the grief and despare, New Yorkers would not give-up, but would instead come together and perservere.

Almost 40 years ago U.S. President John F. Kennedy demonstrated his solidarity to the people of Berlin in a historic speech.

Just as President Kennedy, at the time, said: "Ich bin ein Berliner", the people of Germany, following the cowardly attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, now say: "Wir sind alle Amerikaner" -

"We are all Americans".

The friendship between Germany and the United States goes back a long way. It was strengthened in the time after the Second World War when the former adversaries became friends and allies.

To this day the people of Berlin still remember, and are grateful for, 'Operation Airlift'. It started in June 1948 when the city of Berlin was completely blockaded by Soviet troops and lasted until September 1949, when the Soviets lifted the blockade. All of the goods the Berliners needed to survive had to be brought in by airplane from the western part of Germany. Coal, gasoline, soap, food, and even candy for the children were transported by the allied airforces, with the U.S. Airforce carrying the brunt of it.

The Chancellor's invitation for students to come from New York to Berlin builds bridges once again, this time across the Atlantic Ocean. I hope it will be a foundation of a lasting friendship between you and the young Germans you are going to meet.

I think it will be easy to bridge any little gap that exists between you and them, even if you do not speak the same language: German students listen to the same music, they watch the same films, they even wear the same clothes- there are many similarities. But there are also cultural differences and it will be interesting for you to discover these as well.

Personally, I too am involved with helping to create bridges between Germany and America. Every year I select a German student from my region to participate in a year-long exchange program in America. My current exchange student, Florian Fröbel, will return this summer after spending a year in California. Following September 11, I received postcards and emails from Florian describing his personal grief and shock about the terrorist attacks.

My next exchange student, Jonas Ette, will leave this summer to live with a host family and study at an American high school.

Yesterday, I was also pleased to welcome Mark Dingfield, from Seattle, as the newest member of my team. He will be working for me until May, although he says that he will stay in Berlin indefinitely, so long as the weather in Germany is so much better than in Seattle. Or until the Seattle Mariners baseball team finally beats the Yankees. I am afraid this means that Mark will have to stay in Berlin much longer than he expects.

A great number of companies, coordinated by the German-American Corporation DaimlerChrysler, as well as a number of cities and many private citizens offered to support "The Bridge New York - Berlin".

In particular, my special thanks goes to Jürgen Schrempp and Matthias Kleinert for their personal involvement in building 'The Bridge New York - Berlin'.

Because of their help, we were able to make this program a reality and are now able to welcome you, the first group of students, to Germany.

Also, the Embassy of the United States and the New York Board of Education helped in developing the "Bridge" program.

To everyone involved in this process, I would like to express the thanks of Chancellor Schröder and the Federal Government.

All of these people have prepared a wonderful and unusual program for you, giving you a broad overview of German politics, culture, history and economics. You will visit the cities of Baden-Baden, Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Cologne. This is really a lot for one week.

You will meet high school students your age, who will introduce you to the German education system. You will get acquainted with some of the nuances of the German language. This will be hard work for you.

I am sure you will have fun creating a work of art together with a brilliant artist.

Finally, you will learn about something very important to Germans, our national sport, soccer.

I think it is great that you are the first ones to volunteer to come over to Germany, serve as ambassadors of your country and of your city, and to begin building 'The Bridge Berlin - New York'. More than ever before, you should be proud to say that you come from New York!

I am convinced that you will have lots of fun. The schedule is busy. Nevertheless, there is time to meet people and to get an impression of what Germany is today. Contrary to widespread belief, the Germans do not wear "Lederhosen" all the time and do not drink only beer - well, maybe a few people in Bavaria do, but that's not true for all over Germany.

Again, I welcome you to Germany, and hope that you have an interesting and engaging time. Have fun!