I am absolutely delighted to see all of you. I want to thank you for the work that you do every single day, and I am thrilled that this Embassy is right in the middle of Berlin and that it has a presence for America representing that vital relationship that the ambassador mentioned. And to see it and to be able to walk into it is absolutely thrilling personally and in every other way.
I am really pleased to have seen Ambassador Murphy. He hit the ground running here in Germany – and I don't mean just on the field as part of soccer diplomacy. (Laughter.) And both the President and I are grateful for your service and really look forward to a lot of close consultation over the next several years.
And this evening, I am very excited to be joining Chancellor Merkel, as well as many others, to commemorate that day 20 years ago when the Berlin Wall gave way to a new era of peace in a united Germany, in a united Europe.
I spend my time going around the world talking with people who are very much at loggerheads over conflicts that happened 100 or 200 or 500 or 1,000 years before. And then you come here, and you think about how horrific the conflicts of the 20th century were, right here in Europe. And tonight, we will have the chancellor of Germany and the president of France and the prime minister of Great Britain, because they are leading a Europe that understands how imperative it is to move beyond the history that we have all lived.
It doesn't matter how hard we try, we're not going to change the past. It is the past, by definition. That doesn't mean we forget about it or marginalize or trivialize it. But it does call all of us, leaders and citizens alike, to think about the kind of future we can create. And that will be on display this evening.
We’re celebrating the triumph of democracy and freedom, and the important role of the German-U.S. relationship. And it's very strong today. I had breakfast with Chancellor Merkel. We did a kind of round-the-world tour. And we are grateful that German and American troops have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in international peacekeeping and security efforts in the Balkans, throughout Africa, and now also in Afghanistan, where Germany has contributed more than 4,000 troops.
We are appreciative of the solidarity that our German counterparts have shown in the P-5+1 negotiations with Iran. And we have worked closely together on a range of transnational threats: from the global economic crisis to climate change. So we appreciate greatly our relationship with Germany, and we want to continue to grow and develop it so that it will be the strong platform for the kinds of changes that people are looking for in our world in the future.
I don't think that our relationship would be as strong as it is without all of you and the work of this Embassy. Day in and day out, you lead one of the most complex missions we have at the State Department. The five consulate general units – Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Leipzig, and Frankfurt – along with the liaison office in Bonn, reflect the breadth of our engagement with not just the German state – the German states and the people of Germany. And your coordination of the 11 federal agencies represented here ensures that all of our government is working toward common objectives.
I am very appreciative of those of you who have embraced the commitment that we’ve made to robust diplomacy and public outreach, engaging not only with representatives of the German Government, but civil society, business leaders, teachers, students, ordinary Germans. That outreach effort conducting town halls and interviews, public discussions, and yes, soccer diplomacy, has helped introduce the United States to a newer, younger, and more diverse generation of Germans.
Certainly, President Obama's leadership and the message that he exemplifies is very well received here in Germany. And we have to build on that, and translate it into institutional change, and create the environment in which we can do even more to help formulate and implement policy, and organize in the cultural and educational exchanges.
Yesterday at the dinner that the Atlantic Council sponsored, two of the leading German speakers – one from the past, one the foreign minister, very much from the present and the future – talked about what it meant to them to have participated in the International Visitors Program in the United States. I would like to see us redouble our efforts, particularly reaching out to young Germans, and particularly those from the east, to build a strong foundation of understanding and respect.
I want to pay special tribute to the nearly 500 locally employed staff, comprised not only of German citizens and resident American citizens, but also third-country nationals, who serve as the backbone of this mission. And I understand that 56 locally employed staff have worked here for more than 25 years. And two, Ishaq Mohammed – Ishaq, and Michael Hahn, have served this mission the longest, for 40 and 39 years, respectively. (Applause.)
That's a long time of service. And of all the embassies I visit, I'm not sure which can claim the longest serving employee, but Embassy Berlin must be right up there. Because the fact is that the level of dedication and skill that I have seen around the world, and what I know is present here in Germany, is absolutely critical for our mission.
This trip is too short. Lots was jammed into it. And it is at a moment when all the eyes of the world are focused on Berlin, as well it should. But I look forward to working with you as we broaden and deepen our engagement with Germany. With Chancellor Merkel reelected, we have a lot of work ahead of us.
And I know that even though it was a short trip, it was a demanding one because of all the moving parts that you’ve assisted with. And there is a tradition, Ambassador Murphy, that when I take off for Singapore tonight, and you see that plane finally clear – (laughter) – it's time for a wheels-up party – (laughter and applause) – because I then become somebody else's responsibility. (Laughter.) And everybody can go back to doing the work you're supposed to be doing every single day, right? Instead of all of the interruptions and the hurry-ups, and this and that.
But this is a beautiful Embassy. And I will end where I started, by saying it’s truly thrilling for me to see one of our new embassies right in the middle of a city. As you know, so many of our embassies are now in the outskirts. They are not accessible for security reasons, which we know are very serious. But this Embassy, with its historic location, with its beauty, is a real symbol of the seriousness of our commitment to our relationship with Germany.
And when I am privileged to speak tonight at the commemoration, I will be thinking about all those who served the United States, going back many, many years, who did their parts – diplomats and soldiers, Foreign Service officers and civil servants, locally employed staff, citizens of every kind and plight from our country, who contributed in their own and your own way to the remarkable accomplishment of what we see today.
So I thank you. There was never any doubt in my mind that someday Germany would be free and reunified, but I had no idea when. And it is such a great personal privilege to be joining with the German people, and people throughout Europe and the world, to celebrate this occasion.
Now we have to turn our attention to the challenges of the 21st century. A wall, a physical wall, may have come down, but there are other walls that exist and we have to overcome. And we will be working together to accomplish that as well. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
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