The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
Remarks by President Obama and German Chancellor Merkel in an Exchange of Toasts -- Berlin, Germany
7:25 P.M. CEST
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome you all, also on behalf of Professor Sauer, to this dinner here at Charlottenburg Palace. And, obviously, I would like to bid a very special and very warm welcome to our guest of honor, the President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, and his wife, Michelle -- a very warm welcome to you.
And let me say that I am personally very grateful to be able to welcome you here tonight, because this affords me again to thank you for the wonderful reception, for the wonderful evening we had. And I’m able to say this also on behalf of the whole -- of the Federal Republic of Germany, because I am aware obviously that this was an honor that was granted to me on behalf of my country when two years ago you gave us this wonderful and gracious reception in the Rose Garden of the White House. And we still have very fond memories. This was indeed a very moving moment, and we greatly appreciated the warmth of your hospitality and also the friendship that you showed through this evening.
Thank you, yet again. (Applause.)
Barack Obama, I think what was possible today also, again, was to show you how many people here in Germany feel a great sense of admiration towards you -- because, in many ways, you personally embody the image of the United States as a country of unlimited possibility. And I think that that was something that also came out very strongly in your speech today that you gave at the Brandenburg Gate, and I think it is a feeling that many people not only on the square in front of Brandenburg Gate were able to share and appreciate, but also the people who were watching the ceremony on television screens all around the country.
Mr. President, your visit shows yet again how close this friendship is, and that it is a friendship that is not only close but that is also unshakeable in its foundation, but that certainly is not something that can be taken as a matter of course. It’s not a natural kind of development if you think of the past of the two terrible wars and the wars for which Germany was responsible.
If you think of the break with civilization that the Shoah had constituted, if you think of the long way that we’ve come together -- for example, the fact that then your country stretched out a hand of friendship, the Candy Bombers; that Kennedy made this commitment to our country in saying, “I am a Berliner.” All of that has not come as a matter of course. All the way to Ronald Reagan’s exclamation, tear down -- an appeal -- “Tear down this wall.”
We’ve come a long way. Again, it was not a matter of course, it was not natural, but it is a long way that has brought us to this place where we finally can celebrate, can meet together and celebrate our freedom together.
All the way leading up to German unity, to the unification of our country, you have demonstrated that you trust us, that the United States of America places great trust in our country. During the period of the Cold War, you have demonstrated time and again that you support us, that you place trust in us, and that is something for which we are very grateful.
Some people said that when unification came about, that this constituted, in effect, the end of history. But I think current events bear me out when I say there still remains quite a lot to do for all of us -- matters that we need to address together, challenges that we need to face -- and that’s something that you addressed also today in your speech, Mr. President. And we talked about for example, as you did, about the regulation of financial markets, about the protection of climate, about the threat of nuclear arms and nuclear proliferation.
But the fact that there are many areas in our world today that still remain unstable, that is something that we need to address together -- we, the Germans, and you, the Americans.
Cheers. The first translation. (Laughter.)
This world of the 21st century is growing ever closer together, but it is true that in this 21st century too, as I said, I see great challenges ahead. And what's also true is, in order to master those challenges, there can possibly and arguably be no better partner for Germany, for Europe, than the United States of America, and the reverse, obviously, is also true.
So allow me to raise my glass and drink to your very good health, Mr. President, to the very good health of your wife, Michelle -- (applause) -- and to pay tribute at the same time to the friendship between the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States, and to the people of America and the people of Germany who constitute the true core of our friendship. (Applause.)
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Guten abend. Thank you to you, Angela, for your very kind words; to you and Professor Sauer for your extraordinary hospitality; and to all of you for the incredibly warm welcome, both literally and figuratively. (Laughter.)
Your English is much better than our German. I was just mentioning to the Chancellor that this is an area where the United States clearly has lagged behind -- making sure that all of our young people learn a second and third language. So we're going to give my interpreters a break this evening.
Fifty years ago, as this city prepared to welcome President Kennedy, Berliners were ecstatic. Mayor Willy Brandt tried to calm everybody down -- he told them, don’t be too emotional. It didn’t work. So after one speech, one newspaper wrote that it was one of the most emotional responses President Kennedy had ever received; it said that more than 1,000 people fainted. We did not have 1,000 people faint today. The few who did, did so because of the weather and not because of my speech. (Laughter.)
But like Presidents before me, and as during my previous visits, I could not be more grateful for the incredible reception that we have received. And I recognize that this signifies the incredible friendship between our two countries. I'm especially pleased that I've been able to bring Michelle and Malia and Sasha along -- and let me just say, on behalf of Michelle and myself, we're incredibly grateful that Sasha and Malia have had the privilege to see not only the beauty but also the history of this city. And they took a number of tours, and when we were in the hotel room, Malia was reciting back to me everything that she had learned about the formation of the wall, and the history of reunification. And nothing is more gratifying than when you see your children understanding not only the facts of history, but also the values that drive history.
In these stunning surroundings tonight, we're reminded of the breadth of that history and the friendship between our two peoples. About the same time this palace was being built, a band of families from along the Rhine -- Mennonites -- set out across the Atlantic, arrived in what is now Philadelphia, and found a new home that remains to this day -- Germantown. And immigrants from Germany and German Americans have continued to shape America ever since.
For our independence, we thank von Steuben. For our prosperity, families like Chrysler and Guggenheim, Heinz and Hershey. For inspiration, Einstein, Steinway, Steinbeck, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig. Young Americans like our daughters will always be grateful to Levi Strauss for their blue jeans. (Laughter.) And Americans will always be grateful especially for some very important German immigrants -- Anheuser-Busch. (Laughter and applause.)
Now, on a very personal level, I'm thankful to Angela. Schiller once said, "Keep true to the dreams of your youth." Angela, you've spoken often of the dreams of your youth -- the freedom that you longed for today as we were out on the balcony before our lunch. She pointed to the train tracks along which the wall used to run, and her memories of riding to her university and then hearing the tracks on the other side and imagining one day that she would be free. And you've not only kept to those dreams, but you've also helped those dreams become real for millions of your countrymen.
I'm extraordinarily grateful for our partnership and our friendship. As I've said before, you're an inspiration to me and to people around the world. (Applause.)
Two years ago, Chancellor Merkel became only the second German leader to address our Congress; the other was Adenauer. And as you closed your speech, you mentioned the Freedom Bell that hangs in the former town hall here, which was a gift in 1950 from the American people to the people of Germany, and it was modeled after our Liberty Bell. Here in Berlin, that bell tolled after President Kennedy's speech. It rang after German unification. It rang after 9/11, which obviously meant so much to us as a symbol of the freedom and friendship that binds us together.
What you may not know is that before the bell was given to our German friends, it travelled all around the United States. Millions of Americans joined the effort, lending their support and signing their names to a declaration of freedom.
And so I want to close tonight by proposing a toast -- I left my wine there, so I'll go with water -- oh, here we go. And I'm going to do so by borrowing the words that those millions of Americans once expressed to their German friends as part of this gift, the Liberty Bell. This is what they said: "We believe in the sacredness and dignity of the individual. We believe that all men derive the right of freedom equally from God. And we are proud to join with millions of men and women throughout the world who hold the cause of freedom sacred."
Zum wohl. (Applause.)
7:41 P.M. CEST