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Department Seal Thomas R. Pickering, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs
Remarks to Germany National Day and 10th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall
Berlin, Germany, Friday, October 1, 1999

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Ambassador Chrobog, distinguished Ambassadors, Members of Congress, and honored guests. It is a great honor for me to be here today to commemorate one of the most significant moments of this century, the unification of Germany, a year following the fall of the Berlin wall.

The wall that so unnaturally divided a city against itself and split a nation in two symbolized the great tragedy of the post-War period. East and West became not two points on the compass, but a line dividing a continent, and ultimately the world. Much of my career, and of the careers of many of you here today, was spent trying to ensure that this division did not lead to tragedy. We managed the enmity. For many years, we did not even dare to hope that we would see it end, much less that it would end peacefully and in our lifetimes. Just as the wall once symbolized bitter division, its fall and German unification have become poetic shorthand for hope. Some are nostalgic for the so-called "simplicity" of the Cold War. The Cold War was not simple.

I am grateful to be living in a safer world, in a world where countries once poised to fight each other now find ways to work together, in a world in which Germany is one again, the Euro-Atlantic community is expanding, as Europe aspires to be both whole and free, and more people across every continent live in democratic societies. The end of the Cold War liberated the German-American relationship from the need to focus narrowly on a common external threat. We are now free to move beyond the armed truce of the Cold War to build a more durable peace in Europe. We share your joy today because we shared your struggle. Across the decades of the Cold War, those who believed in freedom sacrificed for it.

We owe our thanks to leaders from every country that ensured the end of the Cold War was peaceful. I would especially thank the leaders of Germany, the leaders in the then-Soviet Union, President Bush, and Secretary of State Baker. Our thanks go, too, to Lech Walesa and the members of Poland's Solidarity, who ignited the peaceful revolution, and to President Havel for following with the Velvet Revolution, and to all the people in Central and Eastern Europe who forged a new future for their countries. And to our Congress and parliaments, and the men and women in our military and diplomatic services. But, the deepest thanks must be reserved for the millions of German citizens on either side of the wall who believed that the future could be different.

We foreign affairs professionals have to deal in the cold realities of the world as it is. That is our job. It is our citizens who imagine the world as it could be. It is to these men, women and children, to their spirit, that we owe the deepest thanks. And we owe them our labor. Our predecessors built the international system in response to the horror of war and the depravation of a worldwide depression.

With the end of the Cold War, we are given the extremely rare opportunity of working in a world more connected, democratic and market-oriented than it has ever been. We owe our citizens our best efforts to advance the worldwide march of freedom, peace and prosperity. As President Kennedy said in Paulskirche in 1963, "Our liberty is endangered if we rest on our achievements, for time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past are certain to miss the future." In Berlin's darkest days, supplies were flown in. We understood that if free Berlin did not stand, our freedom was at risk. We understood that there was a price worth paying.

Today, those of us who participated in the Berlin airlift, and our friends, now share the task of helping other countries at risk. In Europe, one of the ways we do this is through the Stability Pact, whose creation is a credit to German leadership. But our actions extend beyond Europe, to countries on other continents in their difficult moments. These countries may be distant geographically, and the direct political connection to our interests may not be as clear, but in a globalized world, natural disaster, economic collapse and war in any corner affects every corner.

In Berlin in 1963, President Kennedy declared that he, too, was a Berliner. To say that you are a Berliner today is to say that you are a citizen of a free and united country. It is to say, "I am a German, a Hungarian, a Latvian, a Slovene." It is to say that the past does not mean that the future cannot be different. To say "I am a Berliner," is to say that people once divided can be joined again. To say, "I am a Berliner" is to say, "I am a South African, a Cambodian ,and a Salvadoran."

Today, we celebrate the unification of Germany. Nine years have passed since that great moment, and a decade since the wall fell. As the new century begins, to say that I am a Berliner and that I am a German is to say, "I am a citizen of a new and hopeful world." May all of us here today, and all of our governments, fulfill that hope, as a measure of respect for our citizens.

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