Why do we have to love our country

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Inaugural speech by Federal President Horst Köhler on July 1, 2004 in the German Bundestag

Thank you very much for the kind words and good wishes. I'm happy about that. You are an incentive and encouragement for my office.

Thank you very much, Federal President Rau, and you have been honored. I fondly remember our discussion about globalization. We agreed that globalization offers opportunities, but that it also needs to be shaped politically. For you, dear Mr. Rau, it is always the individual person in their unmistakable dignity who is at the center of your thoughts and actions. And it is your Christian faith that shapes your image of man. This is how you won people's trust. So you were a citizen president in the best sense of the word. So stay a role model for us. Dear Mr. Rau, we thank you for this today. We thank you for your great service to our country.

You once said: "I would not have been able to fill this position without my wife." I am convinced that it will not be any different for me either.

All the more, dear Ms. Rau, you deserve respect and recognition today. With your hard work, especially for children in need and especially for street children, you have opened hearts and won. They have shown that hardship and need are not anonymous. Behind it are names, names of people whose fate one cannot accept. You have done a lot of good, dear Ms. Rau. Thanks for that!

Ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to tell you about something that surprised me a bit in this form. Since May 23, the day of the Federal Assembly, I've been asked again and again: "What exactly do you love about Germany?" or "Why do you love Germany?" Then when I refer to the landscapes, the dialects, the literature, the music, people say: "Well, that's definitely correct." But they also say: "It can't be that alone."

And indeed: landscape, language, music - is that really all? Especially at a time when not a few people in Germany are very worried, when our country is clearly in economic difficulties, when new divisions are becoming noticeable in our society. Divisions of a kind that did not exist in this form two or three decades ago.

I am not just referring to the differences between West and East Germany. I mean the differences that run right through our community: people who have work and those who live with no prospect of work; High earners without children and families with children or single parents without a regular income or perspective. I mean the dramatic aging of the population with the threat of conflicts between old and young. And I also mean the danger of parallel societies developing in our cities, triggered by the fact that the integration of people of different origins and religions does not work.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is also true that the beauty of our country, the history of our country, the problems of our country - all of this is and will remain Germany. This is our country, this is our home. And it remains true: Despite all the difficulties, problems and crises that our country is currently going through, we Germans are far better off than three-quarters of humanity.

Do we actually know what it means to have to live on less than 2 euros a day - like over 3 billion people on this planet?

But I do not want to give this argument a false tongue. The fact that others in the world are worse off is certainly no consolation for those of us who have to turn their penny three times.

Nevertheless: Our country should be worth something to us. Despite all the current difficulties, the Basic Law and the social market economy stand for a particularly happy and peaceful phase in our country; Federal President Rau pointed this out. I myself am part of a generation that has seen the history of the Federal Republic as a unique success story, from reconciliation with our neighbors to the economic miracle and reunification. All of these are great historical achievements and good reasons to trust ourselves, to trust ourselves. For me there are good reasons to love our country, our home. And that's why I ask: Can we care whether our country is growing and prospering or falling further behind in global competition? Can't we care if one of Europe's engines starts to stutter more and more, as some say? I do not think so. Why? First, because our partners in Europe and around the world look to us and rightly expect a lot from us. We are 80 million people in the heart of Europe and we have no choice but to take responsibility. Germany must be a country that has ideas for political shaping and is capable of compromising, that is sovereign and at the same time knows that it needs its partners on both sides of the Atlantic.

A few weeks ago we were reminded that other peoples - especially the United States of America - fought so that we Germans could live in freedom. We should never forget that.

For me freedom is the most important value that permanently binds Europe and America, and I continue to see America as a haven of freedom. It is true: the Americans made their mistakes, we Europeans ours. But it is also clear to me: Nobody can care about a caricature of America in the world. That harms everyone who stands up for freedom and democracy in this world. We Germans should strive for a good partnership and a new dialogue with America - self-confidently and also capable of criticism among friends with whom we share common values ​​and interests.

Common values ​​and common interests - that carries more and more than just gratitude.

Many people in our country are already making an exemplary contribution to freedom and international stability every day. I would like to thank our soldiers, the police, the Federal Border Police, the technical relief organization, the charitable organizations and the many non-governmental organizations. You are doing a great service all over the world and are excellent ambassadors for Germany.

Ladies and gentlemen, Germany’s fate will be decided primarily in Europe. Reconciliation and cooperation in Europe have ensured us freedom, peace and prosperity. Who would have dared believe all of this 50 years ago? The enlargement of the European Union and the agreement of the heads of state and government on the constitutional treaty are further milestones on the way to a united Europe, a community of values. Germany should continue on this path with firmness and patience.

But it must make us thoughtful that hardly more than four out of ten Germans voted in this year's European elections. Obviously, too many citizens do not understand Europe. Let's explain Europe better together. As Federal President, I would like to help strengthen the feeling of European identity. After all, it does not suppress national identity. Transparency, democratic decision-making processes and a clear allocation of competencies - this will take away the feeling of being at the mercy of an anonymous bureaucracy in Europe, and this will be the basis for the new constitutional reality.

In over four decades, the Franco-German friendship has turned from a vision into a lived reality. It was crucial for the unification of Europe. A new historical phase for Europe began with the enlargement of the European Union on May 1, 2004. In view of my own biography, I see this phase as a task and an obligation.

That is why I will advocate personal encounters between Germans and people in the new member states, especially encounters between young people. And that's why my first trip abroad will take me to Poland and France.

However, I would also like to see a Europe that supports the development goals of the United Nations in an exemplary manner not only with words but also with deeds, specifically through further opening of the markets for poor countries and also through more official development aid.

In my work for the International Monetary Fund, I have seen hunger and immeasurable hardship, especially among women and children. But I've also seen that targeted development cooperation can do a lot of good.

For me, the humanity of our world is decided by the fate of Africa. Isn't it a question of Europe's self-respect to be honest and generous in getting involved with our own foundations, values ​​and history in Africa?

Ladies and gentlemen, there is a second, even more important reason why we should not simply come to terms with the current state of our country: We have the responsibility to awaken people's creative powers and allow them to develop. Out of its own interest, Germany needs a new start. We have to overcome the divisions in our society. But we will only be able to do this if we combat their causes and not just describe symptoms, and if we see our country as it is. We have strengths, but we also have weaknesses. It is important to maintain and develop your strengths. It is important to learn from the weaknesses. I am sure we have all the talent we need. What we lack are the right framework conditions, the right climate so that these talents can develop. We shouldn't tell ourselves we can't handle this.

Federal President Roman Herzog said as early as 1997: "Germany has to be jolted." He was right. But we've lost a lot of time since then. Why are we still not getting the jolt? Because we're all still waiting too long for it to happen.

What do you need for a jerk? Well, above all you need ideas that can be realized. Everyone has ideas, you and me. But we are not fighting enough to make it happen. We are all waiting.

This also applies to the parties. Agenda 2010 points in the right direction.

What we need now is consistency and steadfastness in continuing on this path.

That is why I say to the majority in the Bundestag and the majority in the Bundesrat: In spite of all the elections, we cannot afford a single lost year for the renewal of Germany.

We need the courage of the Federal Government to initiate initiatives that consistently continue the path of renewal, and we need the courage of the opposition to make their alternatives fully and completely clear.

We need something else: the ability to make constructive compromises. The agreement on the Immigration Act and the result of the mediation committee on the reform of unemployment and social assistance show that Germany is moving. I welcome that.

The non-partisan discussion on the modernization of the federal system - Mr Althaus, President of the Federal Council - also makes me confident. Too many laws in the Bundestag currently require the approval of the Bundesrat.

The result is compromise, behind which people can no longer see who is responsible for what.

I hope that politicians will find the strength to clearly separate and organize their responsibilities in the federal, state and local governments and to enable competition for better politics.

Last but not least, I would like more political leeway for the implementation of ideas at the local level; because we are threatened with breaking away there.

If we make progress on these issues, much will be gained for our country's ability to reform.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we know where we want to go, even a difficult journey is bearable. It is said everywhere that we need reforms. I said that myself too. But many people can no longer hear the word reform. We have obviously failed to explain the aim of the reforms. Explaining this goal is our obligation.

What is our goal? Well, I'll put it very simply: We want to make Germany a successful country again, a country where people like to live, above all a country where people can find work and develop their ideas, a confident country, a proactive one Land, a land of ideas. That is what we should and we can achieve.

Our German history is peppered with imaginative minds. Exactly today, July 1st, 358 years ago, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz was born. This universal scholar not only thought about the now proverbial "best of all worlds", but also had very practical ideas for it, for example the use of the wind for pit drainage in the Harz mining industry.

Isn't that promising enough for you?

Leibniz also invented differential calculus, independently of Newton, and introduced the binary number system with the digits 1 and 0, on which modern computer technology is based - over 300 years ago.

But ideas have to become actions. You have to be able to become one. Why have we still fallen behind in terms of ideas and innovations over the last few decades? There are countless examples of where ideas originated in Germany, but the workplaces elsewhere, for example the Braunsche tube, Konrad Zuse's first computer or - most recently - MP3 technology. I explain what MP3 technology is to everyone after the session.

This is something very modern. - We invented these things. But above all, they were further developed and economically evaluated elsewhere. Something similar is currently threatening to happen in nano- and biotechnology. We have to change something here so that we do not become a wasteland of ideas.

As an export nation, Germany has benefited from globalization in the last 50 years like hardly any other country in the world. But it is also true that more and more countries are currently overtaking us. Today, people around the world are increasingly saying "Made in China" or "Made in Malaysia" with respect. Our answer cannot be isolation, only the more creative ideas "Made in Germany".

At this point there is even good news for us Germans from the European Football Championship.

The official ball of the EM is produced in Asia. His extensive know-how, i.e. the amount of knowledge it contains, comes from Germany and secures jobs with us. Unlike its lead-heavy, rain-soaked predecessor model for the "Miracle of Bern" in 1954, the 2004 European Championship ball has a seamless surface; that is a top achievement of German materials research.

This shows that we can find a way to secure jobs with us, especially with innovations and a knowledge advantage. There's more to that, but that's an important part. There are still entrepreneurial success stories in Germany today, for example in software development or in mechanical engineering. There are also German technology and world market leaders here. But we have too few such companies. We need more of it.

We also need more ideas in the social area, ideas like those of the Berlin City Mission. Five years ago, it founded the "Zentrum Lehrter Straße" together with private donors and companies. A contact point for homeless people and prisoners has been created there, a youth hostel and social forum at the same time. Without waiting for the state, citizens have come together here to actively help other citizens in need. They were brave, creative, and willing to take risks. You haven't waited. There are more such examples in Germany and we need more too. These are also ideas "Made in Germany"; that too gives me hope and makes me confident.

But why are we still struggling with renewal at the moment? From all the many possible answers I would like to single out two: On the one hand, we simply cling too tightly to what we have. On the other hand, we live too much in fear of failure.

For me, the welfare state is a civilizational achievement that we can be proud of.

But today's welfare state in Germany has taken over. It's bitter but true.

Above all, we have not managed to adjust the welfare state in good time to the conditions of an aging society and a changed world of work. Further national debt is also no way out, because the high debt is already a burden on the future of our children.

We need a change in mentality in our country, a new balance between personal responsibility and collective security. We must also shape social policy according to the principle of sustainability, i.e. always take into account the effects on future generations, our children, in all decisions and all legislative proposals. We have neglected that for too long.

We must all be aware that the restructuring of the welfare state is already demanding a lot from many people in Germany. There is social hardship because cuts hit people who don't have much anyway. I know that and we should all know that. Nobody can seriously promise new scope for distribution after a short period of time. All the more we have to ensure that everyone bears responsibility and makes sacrifices, according to their capabilities.

We need a "development policy for a developed country", as the German Catholic bishops put it.Well-wise: development, not demolition or dismantling, development as renovation.

To do this, we also need the strength to overcome camp thinking in our society. Employees and employers, culture, science and business - we are all in the same boat. Everyone can take responsibility for the well-being of the country. Everyone can be a role model, for example the nurse, the teacher, the youth coach in the sports club, the journalist, the entrepreneur. Most entrepreneurs in Germany do exemplary things in difficult times. It is clear to these entrepreneurs that in the knowledge society in particular, motivated and motivated employees are a company's greatest asset. I would like business leaders to exemplify a culture of responsibility and moderation, especially in these difficult times in Germany.

A second reason why we are having such a hard time with the renewal in Germany is - as I have already mentioned - the fear of failure. But setbacks and errors are part of human activity. It is important not to give up on yourself, to start over and over again and not to let yourself down. Think of the Leipzig Olympic application! I don't want to downplay the problems and mistakes of individuals. Nonetheless, something new and great was tackled in Leipzig. Leipzig dared to compete with cities like New York, London or Paris. It wasn't enough in the end. But I am quite sure: the experience will make the people of Leipzig and, by the way, the people of Rostock stronger as well.

People with courage, ideas and a sense of responsibility do not fall from the sky. They are shaped: in the family, at school, in the neighborhood. That is why education and upbringing are the key to Germany's future viability. Education - that means promoting creativity, awakening ideas and conveying values. This can only be achieved by those who create role models and exemplify ideals themselves and to which young people can orient themselves or rub themselves. In my opinion, this is where we possibly have the greatest need for action. Education means investing in hearts and minds. We need an education system that promotes performance, conveys joy in learning and, as a learning system, is creative and capable of development.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have the feeling that a family renaissance is developing in our society. I feel that and that gives me confidence. This development must be strengthened and promoted. I recently read a remarkable sentence about family and children: Children are the only permanent relationship.

It is therefore important that the parents are again aware of their educational mandate. Above all, that means: You have to be a role model. We know that being a father and mother is one of the most difficult professions, especially today, at a time when young people have to fight for jobs and social recognition in a very different way than my generation: they have a harder time today.

Education and family must also be rethought together because the rapid aging of our society presents us with enormous problems. Our country has no future without children. That is why it is so important that Germany, as a land of ideas, is above all a country for children.

Germany must become a country in which we do not allow children to go into neglect, in which there is no longer a sign saying "Playing forbidden" and in which noise from children is no reason for court rulings.

It should be clear that children are not just a woman's business, they are a parent's business.

The majority of young people would like to have a good work-life balance. But there is another very important point: we have to become a country in which equality between women and men is a matter of course.

And last but not least, this applies to women's leadership positions in business and society. Germany is one of the developing countries here. I can tell you that based on my international experience.

We men have to be clear: it's not even so much about children and families. It is more about the creativity and competence of women. We need you urgently.

We must have the strength to make it possible to start a family in parallel to training, employment and building a livelihood. I appeal to politics and economy, to associations and administration, above all to the self-government institutions: create better conditions faster! Help so that women and men can freely make the decision for a professional career without having to decide against having children!

We need more day-care centers and better working time models that make it possible to combine work and home.

At the same time, it is very important to me to say: Even mothers who want to get involved with their families at home should find greater recognition in our society, visible and tangible.

I would like to make a special appeal to young people in Germany. The 21st century is yours, is your century! The renewal of Germany is primarily about your future, that of young people. It's about your ideas, your commitment. You have so much freedom, so many opportunities! Take control of the 21st century! And - this is also very important - do not discard the experience of the ancients. She is valuable and helpful. Of course, ladies and gentlemen: our society is getting older and older. But here, too, there is good news: You are never too old for ideas and commitment.

This is my appeal to the elderly: approach the young! You are needed! The new community between old and young is a great opportunity for us and our land of ideas in the 21st century.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we must understand this upheaval here and in the world as an opportunity and use it. We have learned in Germany in the past that the power of the controversial debate, the power to overcome contradictions and the power of freedom have led to good things: ties to the West, economic miracle, also the 68ers with their impulses and excesses, German unity, the European unification.

Despite many, often bitter, disputes, we have built bridges, overcome contradictions and found solutions. Last but not least, the memory of what happened 15 years ago in Germany should give us courage for the future: The people of East Germany succeeded in a peaceful revolution. Your courage and your experience of change are valuable to all of us.

We are now asaPeople demanded.

Ladies and gentlemen, I know that here today I have not addressed everything and all groups in our country. I have no illusions that some who don't find themselves will be disappointed. I would like to say to them in particular, but not threaten, that today's speech is not the last word.

At the same time, I want to admit: Nobody already has all the answers to the many open questions at this time. We have to live with openness. It is important that we remain capable of dialogue and learning as individuals and as a society.

I see my oath of office as an obligation to contribute to the renewal of Germany. As Federal President, I will look, ask, and question. My personal compass is my Christian image of man and the awareness that human activity is always provisional activity in the end. I am an optimist.

The sentence comes from Goethe:

Nobody knows how far his powers will go until he tries them.

Let's try our ideas and our powers! We can make a lot possible in Germany. To do this, we need more freedom and more community at the same time. I am sure: we will make it. I believe in this country because I believe in its people.

Many Thanks.