Sonntag, 23. Oktober 2011

Speech: "A Vision for Berlin Berlin und wir – was wir von der Hauptstadt erwarten" at Stiftung Zukunft , October 20, 2011, from U.S. Ambassador Philip D. Murphy

As prepared for delivery.

A Vision for Berlin
Berlin und wir – was wir von der Hauptstadt erwarten
Stiftung Zukunft Berlin
Berlin, October 20, 2011
Ambassador Philip D. Murphy

Dr. Hassemer, Mr. and Mrs. Rosenkranz, members of the Stiftung Zukunft Berlin. 

Welcome to our Embassy and thank you for including us in your series on the future of Berlin.

Ambassador Grinin, I understand you kicked off this special Embassy series.  

It is an honor to pick up the ball from you and it is an honor to greet you here today.  

Ambassador McDonald, it is a pleasure to see you. I guess you are next.  

Thank you all for coming.

I have invited some special guests to help me out: Haitian-American journalist Rose-Anne Clermont, Korean-German hockey player Martin Hyun, and Ernst Elitz, the well-known German journalist and member of the Stiftung Zukunft.  


The fact that we are all able to assemble here where a Wall once stood speaks volumes about the history of Berlin.  

We have named this conference room after Ernst Cramer, a true German-American hero.  

Throughout his long career, he had a vision of the future of this city and this country that looked beyond the tyranny of the past.

We also have four smaller conference rooms that also look out onto Pariser Platz.  

They are named after four American Presidents whose words were markers on the timeline of the postwar German relationship.  

We have a Truman Room named after the President who said, in the early days of the Airlift, for the world to hear, “We are not leaving Berlin;” and then went on to prove it.  

We have a Kennedy Room.  

Who, when thinking about Berlin and the United States cannot hear his words, “Ich bin ein Berliner”? 

From this window, one can almost see the place where President Ronald Reagan stood and said, “Tear down this wall.”  Two years later, thanks to the commitment of many East Germans, the Wall did come down and a year after that, the two Germanies became one.  

One of the biggest supporters of reunification was President George H.W. Bush.

But that was history – a history that spanned a period in which Germany cooperated more closely with the United States than with any other country.  

Other countries maintained close ties with the U.S., but Germany and America worked together in a unique way to define and achieve two very important goals – first, to build democracy; and second, to overcome the division of Europe.

For decades, the world looked to Berlin for a message of change.  Berlin is now returning that solidarity by sending a message of change to peoples throughout the world as they work to build a vision for this century.  The hopes of 1990 have developed into a complex list of challenges.

I mentioned the strength of the Cold War German-American partnership.  

Over the past two decades, the United States and Germany have created a new kind of partnership based on our common vision of open, democratic, secure, and prosperous societies.  It is a synthesis of best practices that draws strength from a two-way catalytic flow of culture and ideas.

Democracy and diversity; openness and pluralism are the essential elements of successful societies.  

The 20th century was in many ways a battle against totalitarianism.  I believe that the 21st century will witness the final vindication of pluralism.  

Berlin, like New York or Berlin’s sister city, Los Angeles, as well as other large cities in the United States and other countries, is a symbol of this process.  

Berlin is not only the capital of a reunified Germany.  

It has for decades been a center of diversity and a magnet for the adventurous and disadvantaged.  

No city in Europe has changed more in the past six and a half decades than has Berlin.  

And so, I believe that when one talks about vision, one need look no further than Berlin.  

Berlin can capture the imagination of those seeking to repeat the miracles of the past. 

Berlin can help ensure that in the 21st century, we have the energy, the vision, and the focus to help freedom and democracy thrive in every corner of our world.  How can it do this? It can once again set an example for the world.

Earlier this week, I talked with Mayor Buschkowsky and others from Neukölln about developing not only the economic capital assets of this city – which are obviously crucial – but also about the importance of social capital.  

Social capital weaves the fabric of a strong community.  

It links individuals, not only those who have common likes or dislikes but also those who wouldn’t normally talk with each other.  

That’s when change happens. 

That’s how trust is built.  

Over time, trust between strangers becomes a broader trust of social institutions.  

Ultimately, that trust becomes a shared set of values, virtues, and expectations within society as a whole.  

People learn that the dreams and aspirations they have for their families and especially for their children are very similar – no matter where people come from or what color their skin is or what their religious beliefs may be.  

Newcomers become “one of us” and not “they.”

I would like to continue that conversation today; perhaps adding, however, one additional element –and that is the role of creative capital.  

Today, Berlin has that extreme combination of toughness, glamour, creativity, experimental nightlife, and affordable cost of living that made New York the world's cultural capital in the '60s.  

There is a current in the air here in Berlin that is almost electric, a current that unleashes new ideas and sparks creative forces.  

Twenty-two years after the fall of the Wall, we just have to look out the window onto Pariser Platz to see the difference.  

On any given day, I can walk out the door and experience hip-hop, or have my picture taken with Darth Vader, a GI or a Russian soldier.  

At least every two weeks or so, Mayor Wowereit walks through the Brandenburg Gate with a visiting head of state or Amnesty International makes its views known or there is a film shoot.

Change is almost a given here in Berlin.  

For Berliners, the challenge of transformation is not new.  

But in this new century, it does require new thinking, new energy and a new willingness, on the part of all Berliners – in the sense of President Kennedy’s reference to the word Berliner– to take on the tasks at hand.  

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