Good afternoon. Please be seated and welcome to the State Department, to the Benjamin Franklin Room. Vice President Biden and Dr. Biden and I are delighted to be hosting this luncheon for a very special guest.
Chancellor Merkel is someone who has proven to be an extraordinary leader, not only on behalf of her country but on the world stage on so many issues that matter greatly to the United States and all those who love and cherish freedom and peace and opportunity for all.
She is receiving, as you may have heard, the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama today, and that is a recognition as our nation’s highest civilian honor. She has ensured during her time in public life on behalf of Germany that her country is a force for all of the values that we hold so dear together, and our alliance is extraordinary shape. And as we live through these very quickly changing times, it is very good to have a partner at the helm of Germany who is working with us to resolve a lot of the issues and solve the problems that we face together.
I first met the Chancellor a long time ago, back in the 1990s. She was not yet Chancellor, I was not yet Secretary, and we actually were on a television show, an interview show, together in Berlin. And she was introduced to me as a young woman who will go far. (Laughter.) And that certainly proved to be true.
When she was addressing, two years ago, the joint session of Congress, she made such an indelible point of talking about the transition she had lived through and exemplified in her own country – tearing down a wall made of barbed wire and concrete, and now in the 21st century having to tear down the walls in our minds, walls of short-sighted self-interest and walls between the present and the future.
Well, we have a leader for both the present and the future with us today. And it is my pleasure to introduce another leader who I’ve known even longer than I’ve known the Chancellor, and that is our wonderful Vice President, Joe Biden. (Applause.)