Today is October 3. A historic date.
On October 3, 1789, George Washington proclaimed National Thanksgiving Day. It was your first President who made this day of togetherness and sharing a truly national event – an event that has become an enduring symbol for generations of grateful Americans.
October 3 is a day that we Germans are grateful for, too. It is Germany’s national day. But we’re not celebrating the German nation as such on this day. We’re celebrating the unity of this, our nation.
The Day of German Unity is, without a doubt, a historic day – not only for us Germans! It is also symbolic of the end of the Cold War.
October 3, 1990, stands for the unique history of reconciliation and forgiveness by the Western powers. Forty‑five years after the end of the Second World War, after all of the horrors committed by Germans, it was above all the Americans who placed their trust in Germany.
Who believed in a peaceful Germany without any ambitions for world domination. Who didn’t fear a united Germany. Others, even in Europe, were more sceptical.
It was the Americans who stood at our side, as allies and reliable partners who shared our values.
It was the Americans who made German unity possible and we will never forget that.
Since the end of the Second World War, the partnership with the U.S. has brought Germany a long period of peace and security. For us, America became a place of hope.
This was also true for me when I spent a few months traveling from the East to the West Coast as a high school graduate – with Paul Auster’s “New York Trilogy” in my pocket and Bruce Springsteen ringing in my ears.
It’s this American optimism and openness that inspired me back then, and which still makes thousands of German in students enthusiastic about crossing the Atlantic.
For us Germans, America is and remains our closest partner outside Europe. Our friendship with the United States means a lot to us. Not only for historical reasons, but also because we still share common values.
We know that here in your country, too, many people cherish the transatlantic friendship. Americans and Germans are facing very similar questions. We want to, and we will, maintain this partnership! This includes building new networks and fostering ties that we have neglected for too long.
When the Atlantic becomes wider in the political sense of the world, we must build more – and stronger – bridges!
That’s why we’re here. Today, on October 3 , we are opening Deutschlandjahr USA. Under the heading of #wunderbartogether, we have prepared 300 projects and well over 1000 events in all of the fifty States of the United States.
We want to paint a picture of everything that transatlantic relations stand for, in the fields of science, the arts, culture, language, and business.
We want to create opportunities for an exchange of ideas with Americans – not only in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles, but also in the heart of the country.
We want to nurture this friendship between people here and in Germany, a friendship that is just as strong today as it was yesterday.
Ladies and gentlemen,
German Unity which became reality on this day 28 years ago, would never have been possible without the people who fought for it. For us Germans, our memories of this historic event are linked with another day that we will never forget: November 9, 1989. On that day the Berlin Wall came down. On that day, and in the weeks and months leading up to it, thousands of people held peaceful demonstrations for freedom.
All around the world, this was a day of hope.
It proved to us that freedom and democracy are never to be taken for granted. To build bridges, sometimes we must tear down walls. For peace and humanity, we need more international cooperation, not less.
The American author Edward Everett Hale once said that “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”
That’s what I want Deutschlandjahr to achieve for us: let’s come together – let’s be successful together! Let’s be #wunderbartogether!
Thank you very much.