Speech by Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle honouring Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton as she received the Walther Rathenau Award in Berlin

15.04.2011 - Speech

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was presented with the Rathenau Award in Berlin in recognition of her tireless work for peace in the crisis regions of the world. The prize is awarded in memory of German Foreign Minister Walther Rathenau, who was murdered in 1922. Federal Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle gave the speech in honour of this year’s recipient.

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Madam Secretary,


Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a matter close to my heart that I be permitted to present the US Secretary of State with the Walther Rathenau Award. Hillary, we pay tribute to you as a committed transatlanticist, defender of human rights and friend of Germany. The United States is and shall remain our closest friend and most important ally outside of Europe. These are the firm foundations on which we stand.

My dear Hillary,

We have gathered today to honor an exceptional politician, a visionary woman, a dedicated transatlanticist, a true internationalist. We have come together to present Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with the Rathenau Award. It is indeed a very special privilege for me to speak here this afternoon.

The award we are confering on you, Hillary, is named after Walther Rathenau. Rathenau was more than a German industrialist, poet, politician and foreign minister of the early Weimar years. Rathenau was a true champion of individual liberty. He saw clever minds as driving force of our prosperity. He stressed the rights of all people. He worked for a world order where everyone meets as partners.

Mutual respect is the universal currency in international relations. This respect is the essence of your work, dear Hillary. You are dedicated. You engage.

We are here to praise an American leader of strong convictions and a true friend of Germany. Your work, ours, Rathenau´s: What we share is the belief that the value of human dignity stands above all else.

Freedom, liberty and dignity should never be taken for granted. As you, Hillary, recently put it in Geneva: ”The power of human dignity is always underestimated until the day it finally prevails.“ Values we don´t cherish are values which will slip away.

German history offers horrific chapters when these values were violated. Sympathizers of the emerging Fascism killed Walther Rathenau in 1922 here in Berlin. What soon followed was the Holocaust. Rathenau himself had warned: ”Der Antisemitismus ist die vertikale Invasion der Gesellschaft durch die Barbaren“, “antisemitism is the vertical invasion of society by barbarians.”

Americans helped end this barbarism. After World War Two, the United States saved the young democracy of West Germany and West Berlin. We never forget the Marshall Plan and the Air Lift.

Decades later, when Communism collapsed, it was again the United States which offered visionary and trusting leadership. In Berlin, brave citizens tore down the Wall. Germany started to grow together again. And out of the former Eastern Bloc there emerged a world of new partners. These nations are now our friends in the European Union and in NATO.

Today, threats to our shared values have new names: terrorism, proliferation, global warming, lack of education and energy shortages. These challenges are difficult to meet. But with the values we share and with the principles we embrace, we together are well equipped for success.

Our most powerful ally is the will of the people to be free. Citizens around the globe want to live in societies they shape for themselves. Dictators are becoming lonely. Their peoples are deserting them. This poses a gigantic task and absorbs much of our political energy and attention these days. There is no magic formula. There is no easy blueprint for the difficult road from dictatorship to democracy.

We have to reconcile our desire for perfection with the means we have to influence events. The lesson we have learned in countries like Iraq or Afghanistan is that our resources to build nations and to create states have limits.

Similar questions are raised by events in Libya. We, Americans and Germans, want to see a democratic, prosperous and peaceful future for the people of Libya. We share the commitment that this future is a future without Gaddafi. In London two weeks ago, in Doha two days ago and in Berlin yesterday, we were united in this cause. Germany stands ready to play its part in the political process. We give humanitarian aid and economic assistance. We share our experiences when it comes to establishing institutions, parties, the rule of law.

My dear Hillary,

We are both trained in the legal profession. As lawyers, we know that a world order based upon the rule of law is one which serves our countries best. This is why we work together on strengthening multilateral organisations. We don´t want to live in a house divided.

This is why disarmament should not stop with New Start. In our pursuit of the vision of a nuclear-free world, we encourage further talks and treaties on arms reduction. Limiting our arsenals should spare neither conventional nor nuclear weapons. Reducing stockpiles and standing firm against proliferation makes the world safer.

The opportunities of globalization far outweigh the risks. Our economies provide jobs and income if borders are open, if ideas, capital, goods and people can move. The Atlantic is not widening, it is narrowing.

We welcome new partners. The greater international presence of emerging nations is no danger to our transatlantic ties. As the world changes, our bond of values and interests becomes not less important, but more important. And we can still go further. Our transatlantic economy can be integrated even closer.

America and Germany thrive on openness. We depend on open borders and free trade. In innovations, we first see potential, not risks. We value diversity and the contributions immigrants make.

Our societies and economies have been fundamentally altered by the internet age. Cyber crime is a real threat, but far greater is the power of the world wide web to create new communities. As you, Madam Secretary, put it so aptly in your recent speech: ”The internet has become the public space of the 21st century – the world´s town square, classroom, marketplace, coffeehouse, and nightclub.“

Never have we been more connected. We welcome the right to choose one´s peers, and be it a social community in cyber space. But autocratic regimes repressing the freedom to connect need to understand that it is not new technologies that question illegitimate authority, but rather new minds.

My dear Hillary,

Later this year, we will mark the tenth anniversary of the attacks of nine-eleven. The hatred that guided the mass murderers of nine-eleven is the opposite of the compassion we feel when people are in need.

Ten years after the horror of ground zero, there is no clash of civilizations. There is unity of hope. Citizens of Tunesia and Egypt and Libya and Yemen and Syria and of several other countries voice desires we share. You correctly said: ”The demand for change has come from within.“

The Arab spring is not over, its outcome is not fixed. If more democratic structures emerge, it will not be our victory. It will be a victory for values we rightfully consider universal. The Arab spring shows that the longing for human rights, responsive governments, women´s rights is shared everywhere.

You, Hillary, have always insisted that society can be made better. You have always declined to accept what others call given. When I read your autobiography Living History, I was especially moved by your story from the Sixties. You contacted NASA for an internship. “That´s no place for girls”, they responded. “That´s no place for”: This is exactly the kind of attitude you have never accepted. We share, very personally, the conviction that discrimination is never to be accepted.

We want stability in international relations. But we have to get the definition of stability right. Static countries are not stable. Change makes a society stable. Only stable societies enable stable rule. Only democracies are really stable.

Twenty years after Berlin, Germany and Europe were united we see the tearing down of another wall. That wall is the ill belief that whole regions, cultures or religions are not suited for freedom. We welcome the aspirations in the Arab world. Freedom is the natural desire of all people, not the privilege of some. Liberty is for everyone. We stand by those who stand up for liberty.

In Geneva you said: “The West certainly does not have all of the answers.” We can help, and that is what we are doing. Ultimately it is the peoples in northern Africa and in the Middle East themselves who write their history, who shape their future.

Madam Secretary, Hillary,

You have been a champion of putting values into practice throughout your life. As a legal scholar and as an acclaimed lawyer, as First Lady in Arkansas and as First Lady in the White House, as United States senator for New York and as Secretary of State you have made your society a better place. You have fought for equality before the law. You have improved education in your country. You have dedicated yourself to better health care. You have built alliances and worked against hatred. You have seen the world outside of the US not as distinct, but as linked. You look for common values, for shared interests. You have embraced foes and opened new doors. Openness and tolerance have been the essence of your work.

My dear Hillary,

It is a huge honor, and it also gives me personally enormous pleasure to hand to you the Walther Rathenau Award. Congratulations!

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