State Dinner for German Chancellor Merkel


President Obama:
Good evening. Guten abend. Michelle and I are honored
to welcome you as we host Chancellor Merkel,
Professor Sauer, and the German delegation for
the first official visit and State Dinner for a European
leader during my presidency. (applause) (translated in German) Angela, you and the German
people have always shown me such warmth during my
visits to Germany. I think of your gracious
hospitality in Dresden. I think back to when I was a
candidate and had that small rally in Berlin’s Tiergarten. (laughter) So we thought we’d reciprocate with
a little dinner in our Rose Garden. (translated in German) Now, it’s customary at these
dinners to celebrate the values that bind nations. Tonight, we want to do
something different. We want to pay tribute to
an extraordinary leader who embodies these values and who’s
inspired millions around the world — including me
— and that’s my friend, Chancellor Merkel. (translated in German) More than five decades ago —
in 1957 — the first German chancellor ever to address our
Congress, Konrad Adenauer, spoke of his people’s “will of
freedom” and of the millions of his countrymen forced to
live behind an Iron Curtain. And one of those millions,
in a small East German town, was a young girl named Angela. (translated in German) She remembers when the Wall
went up and how everyone in her church was crying. Told by the communists that
she couldn’t pursue her love of languages, she
excelled as a physicist. Asked to spy for the secret
police, she refused. And the night the Wall came
down, she crossed over, like so many others, and finally
experienced what she calls the “incredible gift of freedom.” (translated in German) Tonight, we honor Angela Merkel
not for being denied her freedom, or even for
attaining her freedom, but for what she achieved
when she gained her freedom. Determined to
finally have her say, she entered politics — rising
to become the first East German to lead a united Germany, the
first woman chancellor in German history, and an eloquent voice
for human rights and dignity around the world. (translated in German) The Presidential Medal
of Freedom is the highest honor a President can
bestow on a civilian. Most honorees are Americans;
only a few others have received it, among them Pope John
Paul II, Nelson Mandela, and Helmut Kohl. So please join me in welcoming
Chancellor Merkel for the presentation of the
next Medal of Freedom. (applause) (translated in German) Military Aide:
Presidential Medal of
Freedom to Dr. Angela Merkel. Dr. Angela Merkel came to
symbolize the triumph of freedom by becoming the
first East German to serve as chancellor of a United
Federal Republic of Germany. She also made history when
she became Germany’s first female chancellor. A dedicated public servant,
Chancellor Merkel has promoted liberty and prosperity in
her own country, in Europe, and throughout the world. (translated in German) (the medal is presented) President Obama:
You can all applaud. (laughter and applause) I’ve got to do the toast. (laughter) (translated in German) I want to conclude by inviting
all of you to stand and join me in a toast. And I want to do so with the
words that Angela spoke two years ago when she became the
first German leader to address our Congress since Chancellor
Adenauer all those decades ago. Her words spoke not only to the
dreams of that young girl in the East, but to the dreams of all
who still yearn for their rights and dignity today: to freedom,
which “must be struggled for, and then defended anew,
every day of our lives.” (translated in German) Cheers. Zum wohl. (applause) Chancellor Merkel:
(speaking in German) (as translated)
Mr. President, dear
Barack, dear Michelle, ladies and gentlemen — the
first political event during my childhood that I distinctly
remember is the building of the Berlin Wall 50 years ago. I was seven years
old at the time. Seeing the grownups
around me, even my parents, so stunned that they
actually broke out in tears, was something that
shook me to the core. My mother’s family were
separated through the building of the Wall. (speaking in German) (as translated)
I grew up in the part of
Germany that was not free, the German Democratic Republic. For many years, I
dreamt of freedom, just as many others did. Also of the freedom to
travel to the United States. And I already had planned this
out for the day that I would reach retirement age. That was the age of 60 for men
— sorry, for women at the time, and 65 for men. (speaking in German) (as translated)
So we as women were somewhat
privileged at the time. (laughter) (speaking in German) (as translated)
But imagining that I would one
day stand in the Rose Garden of the White House and receive
the Medal of Freedom from an American President that
was certainly beyond even my wildest dreams. And believe me, receiving
this prestigious award moves me deeply. (speaking in German) (as translated)
My thanks go to the American
people, first and foremost, for this extraordinary honor,
knowing full well how much you have done for us Germans. And I thank you
personally, Mr. President, because you are a man
of strong convictions. You touch people with your
passion and your visions for a good future for these
people, also in Germany. You have been able time and
again to put down important international goalposts,
injecting issues such as disarmament, the question of how
to shape our relations with the countries of the Middle East,
and last but not least, the Middle East — the solution
to the Middle East conflict with new dynamism. (speaking in German) (as translated)
Mr. President, I see the award
of the Medal of Freedom as a testimony of the excellent
German-American partnership. Our countries stand up together
for peace and freedom. History has often showed us the
strength of the forces that are unleashed by the
yearning for freedom. It moved people to overcome
their fears and openly confront dictators such as in East
Germany and Eastern Europe about 22 years ago. (speaking in German) (as translated)
Some of those courageous men and
women are with me here tonight. And the Medal of Freedom you
so kindly bestowed on me, you also bestowed on them. (speaking in German) (as translated)
The yearning for freedom cannot
be contained by walls for long. It was this yearning that
brought down the Iron Curtain that divided Germany and
Europe, and indeed the world, into two blocs. America stood resolutely
on the side of freedom. It is to this resolve that we
Germans owe the unity of our country in peace and freedom. (speaking in German) (as translated)
Also today, the yearning
for freedom may well make totalitarian regimes
tremble and fall. We have followed with great
interest and empathy the profound changes in North
Africa and in the Arab world. Freedom is indivisible. Each and every one has
the same right to freedom, be it in North Africa or
Belarus, in Myanmar or Iran. (speaking in German) (as translated)
Still, the struggle for
freedom is demanding far too many sacrifices, and
claiming far too many victims. My thoughts are with our
soldiers, our policemen, and the many, many
volunteers who try to help. I humbly bow to all those
who risk their lives for the cause of freedom. (speaking in German) (as translated)
This year marks the tenth
anniversary of the horrible attacks of 9/11. Over the past 10 years, we have
stepped up significantly our joint fight against terror
and for freedom and this in many ways. We see that living in freedom
and defending freedom are two sides of one and the same coin,
for the precious gift of freedom doesn’t come naturally, but
has to be fought for, nurtured, and defended time
and time again. (speaking in German) (as translated)
Sometimes this may seem like an
endless fight against windmills. But you see, my
personal experience is a quite different one. What we dare not dream
of today may well become reality tomorrow. (speaking in German) (speaking in English)
Neither the chains
of dictatorship nor the fetters of oppression can keep
down the forces of freedom for long. This is my firm conviction that
shall continue to guide me. In this, the Presidential Medal
of Freedom shall serve to spur me on and to encourage me. Mr. President, thank you
for honoring me with this prestigious award. (applause)

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