Speech by Minister of State Werner Hoyer at the memorial for Richard C. Holbrooke at the American Academy on 15 April 2011

18.04.2011 - Speech

-- translation of advanced text --

Ladies and Gentlemen,

for me to speak on behalf of the German government at this memorial for Richard Holbrooke is much more than an honor. It is something quite personal.

Recollecting my conversations with Richard, I'd like to offer some observations of what he meant to me and to us here in Germany.

And that includes impressions from my many visits to his home town New York -- and from the Rocky Mountain West which he loved -- and where I spent a whole year as a student.

Richard was a unique combination of the two: tireless and un-stoppable like New York -- and capable of the most generous, sometimes unimaginable vision like in the Rockies -- where only the sky is the limit.

So let me express my personal admiration and respect for a man of peace, for a close friend of Germany, a diplomat of unique stature and achievement, combined with my deep-rooted political conviction of the singular importance of the friendship between Germans and Americans.

Richard Holbrooke personified this conviction. He shared it with his friends and with the leading circles of politics, industry, media and society in this city and in this country amongst which he so easily and smartly moved.

The American Academy in Berlin is certainly his best and lasting legacy as Ambassador to Germany, next to his decisive role at the Dayton peace accords and his last mission as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan – conflicts where we stood and stand shoulder to shoulder.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Richard Holbrooke, the New Yorker, felt so much at home in Berlin. Now, there are certain characteristics which people tend to attribute to both New Yorkers and Berliners: curiosity, openness and frankness, a distinct big town charme and a big heart at the right spot.

Richard amply displayed the whole spectrum of his talents throughout his career and here at the Academy to create it and to constantly expand its reach into German society and far beyond - from politics and academia to literature and music. Berlin has grown into America's intellectual hub in the heart of Europe.

By bringing the best and the brightest Americans to this city, the American Academy contributes to that in an un-paralleled way.

Why is this so important?

And why can't Richard Holbrooke's role and legacy in achieving this not be emphasized enough?

Because for us Germans, America continues to be our most important partner and friend outside of the European Union.

Equally, Richard - as I know from our personal conversations - saw Europe as America's “first friend”, based on values, interests and a shared history.

A friend and partner on a continental scale, in a world from which America, for its own interests, could not retreat, as President Obama put it in his eulogy for Richard.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am honored to note that Germany had a special place in his heart and in his mind.

As Ambassador, he recruited the sharpest brains – like Fritz Stern - to advise him on Germany - past and present. He convinced his mother to overcome her initial reluctance to return to her native land and visit him in Bonn. And long after he had left he kept using his German vocabulary.

At the same time, he had a very clear sense that “first friends” must never take each other for granted.

Historic events -- the Berlin airlift, the Berlin speeches by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan, the fall of the Berlin Wall and America's indispensable role for the unification of Germany -- must be kept alive in our memories and provide the context for our friendship. But generations, the world and its challenges change. Nostalgia alone would lead to standstill and back-sliding.

For Richard Holbrooke - and for the German government – one thing is very clear: shaping the future together means constant and sustained re-investment in our trans-atlantic partnership and in the next generation of leaders.

This is indispensable here in Germany and in Europe with its many clichées about America

And it is certainly indispensable in Washington where the whole world is competing for political attention.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Richard Holbrooke wrote in the Academy's “Berlin Journal” after September 11, that in order to create “the third transatlantic alliance”... “more than ever, Europe needs the United States, and the United States needs Europe”.

Richard saw this clearer and earlier than many others - and continued to re-invest in this partnership until his very last day.

To pick up this torch and carry it forward between our countries, continents and our people, that is the best we can do to honor his life and his legacy.

The Berliners and the Germans are determined to do just that.

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