Excerpts from Joachim Gauck‘s speech after the inauguration ceremony – rough translation.
Every day, every encounter with the media creates new fears and worries. Some devise escape routes, distrust the future, and fear the present tense. Many ask themselves: what kind of life, what kind of freedom is that? My life’s central issue, “freedom”, to them is no promise, but uncertainty.
Even though I understand this reaction, I do not want to abet it. Fear lowers our courage and self-confidence, at times that crucially so that we may lose both – until we may consider cowardice a virtue, and flight a legitimate attitude in the area of politics.
Instead, I want to use my memory as an energy to teach and to motivate myself and ourselves.
What should this country look like, that our children and grandchildren shall call “our country”? It shall be “our country” by combining social justice, participation, and opportunities of advancement. The path leading there is no paternalistic welfare policy, but a social state which provides and empowers.
In “our country”, all those who live hear shall be at home. By now, we live in a state where religions like Islam have added themselves to the understood German and Christian traditions, as well as other languages and traditions. Here, the state becomes ever less defined by its citizens’ national belonging, but by their belonging to a political and ethical community of values, [in a state] where not merely a common destiny determines the polity, but where, increasingly, the pursuit by diverse [people] for what we have in common: this state in Europe, where we want to live in freedom, peace, and solidarity.
Not only here, but in Europe and beyond, representative democracy is the only system suitable to balance group interests and the common good.
Different from the Weimar democracy, there are sufficiently many democrats who resist the demons of fanatics, terrorists, and killers. Their testimonies are based on various political or religious reasons: we won’t allow anyone to take our democracy away; we stand by our country – not because it would be perfect, but because we have never had a better one. And we tell the right-extremist spurners of our democracy in particular: your hatred is our incentive. We won’t let our country down. We won’t give you our fears as a gift. You will be past, and our democracy will live.
Gandhi said that only people with self-confidence will forge ahead and be successful. This is true for individuals and for a country. We can’t tell if we will bequeath our children and grandchildren possessions. But we have shown*) that we can choose courage, rather than following fears.
Thanks to God and to the people, this is what they will inherit.
*) A reference to West Germany’s emergence in/after 1949, and East Germany’s in 1989, apparently.