I don’t know, maybe I’m just not used to Europeans expressing gratitude to the United States. Or politicians delivering eloquent statements immersed in real thoughts, feelings, and history – however uncomfortable and true. But Chancellor Merkel’s toast to President Obama and the United States tonight struck a chord with me, and I thought you might like to read some excerpts.
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 . . .
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 . . .
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.
Merkel, as you may know, grew up in East Germany. Maybe she has just a little bit more appreciation than her EU partners of the value of freedom and the United States.
Thank you, Chancellor, for your friendship as well.