Speech by Minister of State Michelle Müntefering on the occasion of the ceremonial inauguration of the Helmut-Schmidt chair at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)
Friendship is born out of dialogue – from talking to, and showing interest in, one another. This is what Helmut Schmidt and Henry Kissinger did.
In his moving eulogy for Helmut Schmidt, Henry Kissinger spoke about what made their sixty-year friendship special. He said it was their ability to engage in “continuous conversation.”
Kissinger and Schmidt did not always agree. But they were ready and willing to have a constant, uninterrupted exchange. This is how they went from university acquaintances in the 1950s to close, life-long friends.
This willingness to engage in dialogue, and to listen to one another, is what we are badly in need of in this day and age, when German-American relations are becoming more complicated.
That is exactly what this new chair will contribute. And: There is no more fitting place for a Helmut Schmidt endowed professorship than at the Henry A. Kissinger Center for Global Affairs.
The School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at Johns Hopkins University is a – if not the most – world-renowned institution for the study of international relations.
Creating such a prominent professorship for transatlantic relations is a great success. Beyond merely recognizing the deep personal ties that exist across the Atlantic, it is also a continuation of Helmut Schmidt’s political legacy.
He was instrumental in making the Federal Republic of Germany a significant foreign policy player in the 1970s. He, more than anyone else, may be said to embody the “old Federal Republic,” what Germany was and became after the Second World War.
With a strategic approach and deep moral convictions based not least on Immanuel Kant - Helmut Schmidt advanced the cause of, and built a solid foundation for, multilateralism.
It was in his strategic cooperation with others that he demonstrated how the ethics of ultimate ends could be balanced with the principle of responsibility. That is how he defined statesmanship.
His definition of politics was “the pursuit of moral ends through pragmatic action” – although, as a citizen of Hamburg, he showed great deference to pragmatism. However, he quarreled with his public image, when it was reduced to this one aspect of his personality.
When I was in school, every child in Germany knew by heart a sentence he had spoken, namely: “anyone who has visions should go see a doctor.” But not many know about his deeply philosophical worldview and motivations.
The Weltkanzler, or global Chancellor, as Prof. Spohr calls him in her book was constantly contemplating the fallibility of mankind, politics, and democracy. I think this is what drove him, especially given his experiences as a soldier during the Second World War. The fallibility he witnessed not only in himself, but also in the state, was stamped into his character. The great lesson that he drew from these experiences was “responsibility.”
For the Federal Republic of Germany, this responsibility meant assuming full membership in a liberal, democratic, and constructive community of nations and values that was committed to constructive discourse. He also spoke about this when he accepted an honorary doctorate from this very university in 1976.
Today, it is up to a new, young generation to make their contribution and to carry on this tradition.
Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas will tonight open the Deutschlandjahr USA – a program comprising more than 1000 events throughout the country and with which we want to deepen transatlantic relations all across this country.
He will speak about the meaning of October 3rd, the German day of unity, which takes place today.
The United States is and will remain Germany’s closest partner outside Europe. We are bound by seven decades of partnership and friendship.
Our societies are now deeply interconnected by a wealth of economic, cultural, and political ties.
Nevertheless, we do see how under the current U.S. administration diplomatic uncertainty between our countries is on the rise.
For the first time after the Second World War, we see it is no longer self-understood that we share the same common values and interests that were the mainstay of our relationship for more than two generations.
We are convinced, however, that we must not call into question the key principle that always bound us together as friends and allies in the world, despite any differences of opinion.
In a nutshell, the question is this: do we agree with the statement that “everyone’s interests are served when each person thinks only of himself?” Or do we think we can achieve greater things if we act together and cooperate?
Do we have faith in the idea of multilateralism – as a platform for reconciling interests, a vehicle for progress, and a way to prevent war?
In view of the changes we are experiencing all around the world, a close transatlantic partnership is not a given. Rather, it was made possible by the conscious, far-sighted decisions of politicians, and by a closely-knit network of personal contacts.
These contacts, these deep ties and intellectual exchange as the motor of global development is what we want to support through the Helmut Schmidt professorship.
For us, the United States is quite simply irreplaceable as a NATO Ally, and as a partner in the fight against terrorism.
At the same time, we also know that Europe must become more self-sufficient and independent.
On security issues, we must assume greater responsibility and play a stronger political role. Our cooperation with Africa is only one example of this.
This also applies to key international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Trade Organization. For, if other nations move in to fill the void that is created by the withdrawal of the United States, then instability will further increase.
We must also accept that it’s OK to have different opinions. Take, for instance, the United States’ withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran, and the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
Together with France and the United Kingdom, we are working hard to preserve the Vienna nuclear agreement, which for many years would have prevented Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
One of our objectives now is to prevent an escalation in the Near and Middle East. The effects of a nuclear arms race would be devastating.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Exactly 10 years ago, I had the very special opportunity to visit Helmut Schmidt in his office at Die Zeit magazine – Ms. Spohr has been there, and Metin as well. On the table, I saw the legendary 1950s ashtray with a push button. The man I met was able to cut to the chase and speak his mind. Also, he was focused on one issue – education!
I am certain, dear Ms. Wintermantel, that Helmut Schmidt would have been very pleased to see how important higher education cooperation with the U.S. is these days, and that this chair is now part of that.
For our young researchers and academics, the United States is still their prime destination. With more than 1600 German and more than 4000 U.S. scholarship holders, the Unitet States is one of our most important partner countries in this sphere.
Through the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, we are engaged in cutting-edge research. And it is by adhering to academic standards and engaging in substantial academic discourse that we develop true understanding of – and respect for – one another.
That is why I am all the more pleased to have the opportunity today to inaugurate a chair of transatlantic-focused research at this prestigious institution. Its mission will be to develop new perspectives on, and answers for, current and future global issues. In the process, it will help deepen transatlantic dialogue to our mutual benefit.
With your professorship, we are sending an important signal in the domain of cultural policy. I am therefore very happy that you – a renowned expert on transatlantic relations and historical-oriented analysis of European and American foreign policy – will be the first appointee to, and will leave your mark on, this endowed chair.
In terms of research, you will be focusing on nothing less than the roles of the United States and Europe in a constantly changing global order. For this, I wish you every success. Helmut Schmidt would greatly approve, because you are not only assuming responsibility, but also bringing with you the requisite “competence” for the task.
Thank you very much!
Let this chair become a sign and proof for responsibility, competence and friendship!