A Moving and Historic Celebration of George P. Shultz
On the evening of May 24 the American Academy in Berlin welcomed over 300 distinguished guests at the 2012 Henry A. Kissinger Prize ceremony, held in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), to celebrate the extraordinary lifetime achievements of United States former Secretary of State George P. Shultz. The former MIT and University of Chicago economics professor and Dean of Chicago's Graduate School of Business entered political life during the Nixon Administration, serving as President Nixon's Secretary of Labor from 1969 to 1970, and then as his Treasury Secretary, from 1972 to 1974. After working in the private sector during the Carter years, Shultz reentered politics as Secretary of State under President Reagan, from 1982-89, the longest serving appointment since Dean Rusk, who served under both Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. It was during Shultz's tenure as Secretary of State that he helped to navigate the United States through several treacherous geopolitical shoals, among them Middle Eastern tensions subsequent the 1983 Marine-base bombing in Beirut; the "arms for hostages" deal with the Sandinistas, which Shultz opposed; the heated uproar with China over the status of Taiwan; and initially strained relations with several European leaders over how to constrain the Soviets during the last throes of Eastern bloc communism, which -- to the credit of figures like Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Helmut Kohl, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and George P. Shultz himself -- eventually led to the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany.
Among Secretary Shultz’s economic and domestic achievements was his expert contribution to the maneuvering of the global economy as it broke with the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s. His initiative in founding the Library Group after the 1973 oil crisis -- comprised originally of the United States, United Kingdom, France, Japan, and West Germany -- developed into the creation of the G-8 summits (Group of Eight, now including Italy, Canada, and Russia), which remain pivotal for eight of the world's most powerful nations. As Secretary of State, Shultz presided over the decisive period of East-West confrontation that culminated in the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987 and to a restoration of trust between the two superpowers. Between his Cabinet appointments, Shultz worked as an executive at the largest construction and engineering company in the United States, Bechtel, which helped to build, among much else, the Hoover Dam and the Channel Tunnel. Since leaving public office, in 1989, Secretary Shultz has remained an important force in the formulation of public and foreign policy in the United States and across the globe. His tireless work for global nuclear disarmament, along with Henry Kissinger, Sam Nunn, and William Perry, led to the creation of NTI, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, whose work has lobbied heads of state and other officials for drastic reductions in nuclear arms. Shultz is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford University, and a policy advisor to the Republican Party.
"Secretary Shultz’s expansive and varied career exemplifies the ideal of a statesman who seamlessly combined academic training and business acumen to confront the pressing political challenges during a period of enormous economic and political change," said A. Michael Hoffman, chairman and president of the American Academy in Berlin. "The 2012 Kissinger Prize is bestowed upon him in recognition of these singular and important contributions to a bold and lasting transatlantic relationship."
The evening was opened with remarks by German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle (download full remarks), who noted Shultz's role in "shaping the twentieth century," from his time as a soldier in the Second World War, to "when Gorbachev came to power, in 1985, as George Shultz urged Ronald Reagan to seek a dialogue with the new Soviet leader." In a moving personal account, Minister Westerwelle recounted his own first time in Berlin, at age 13, and how much Shultz's life had changed his own, saying, "Liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all are not just abstract concepts," and that Shultz's ambitious drive to make these ideals concretely shared had saved Germany and given him childhood hope. "On behalf of the German people," Westerwelle said, "I thank you for all you have done for our country."
Westerwelle's adulations were followed by laudations by the Honorable Helmut Schmidt (download full laudation), former German Chancellor (1974–1982), whose friendship with Shultz spans forty years, when they first met as finance ministers during the breakup of Bretton Woods in the mid-1970s. It was then that Shultz invited Schmidt to the White House for the so-called Library Group, which would later become the G8 summit. Schmidt's personal and gripping account of Germany since National Socialism was an illuminating narrative history that eventually intertwined with his own friendship with Schultz, and into the reunification of his divided nation. "George Shultz took the first decisive stand by getting President Reagan to confront the Soviets," Schmidt said, and he "paved the way for the end of the Cold War as much as did the solidarity movement in Poland." Turning to Shultz, Schmidt called him a "successor and preserver of American grand strategy," and that because "George Shultz has stood up for this country in many ways," Schmidt said, he "will remain forever grateful."
Former US Secretary of State and Academy founding co-chairman Henry A. Kissinger noted how both men, Helmut Schmidt and George Shultz, have been an inspiration for his entire professional career (download full laudation). "There is no position in government," Kissinger said,"where my first choice would not be George Shultz," a man whose hardwon results had on numerous occasions "steadied the nation in uncertain times." While Kissinger listed the many qualities that made Shultz admirable -- not least their collective efforts in the Nuclear Threat Initiative -- the most important among them, Kissinger said, were "confidence, optimism, and pragmatic determination."
At the invitation of Academy Chairman A. Michael Hoffman, former German president Richard von Weizsäcker came to the stage in order to bestow the prize, designed by Gabriele von Habsburg.
Secretary Shultz then delivered a warm thanks to Schmidt and Kissinger, reviewing their years together at high-level meetings at the White House and in Bonn, as well as in some more domestic settings: once in Shultz's kitchen over sandwiches, an inspiring discussion, he said, that lasted for hours. Shultz also spoke to his work towards global nuclear disarmament with NTI, and to two concerns he believes are changing the geopolitical landscape because of their effects on the global energy supply -- and therefore on foreign relations: natural gas extraction in the United States and the search for alternative energy sources and energy storage (download full speech).
Members of the audience celebrating Secretary Shultz came from a variety of professional sectors and included United States Ambassador to Germany Philip D. Murphy, former US ambassadors Robert Kimmett and John C. Kornblum; German Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble, Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs Hans-Ulrich Klose; numerous members of German parliament; former head of the European Central Bank Jean-Claude Trichet; French Ambassador Maurice Gourdault-Montage, Israeli Ambassador Yakov Hadas-Handelsman, and Italian Ambassador Michele Valensise; dozens of distinguished heads of German businesses, including from Bosch, Siemens, Lufthansa, and Axel Springer; and, from the cultural world, bestselling author Peter Scholl-Latour, artist Thomas Demand; and journalists from the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN (including host Jim Clancy), Spiegel, Stern, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Der Taggespiegel, and Die Zeit, among others.
Following the award ceremony, a dinner was held in Shultz's honor at the European School of Management and Technology (ESMT) for 140 invited guests, where ESMT's president, Jörg Rocholl, delivered congratulatory remarks, followed throughout the evening by German minister of finance Wolfgang Schäuble, former German president Richard von Weizsäcker, US Ambassador Philip D. Murphy, and Academy trustees Kurt Viermetz and John C. Kornblum.
The Henry A. Kissinger Prize has been awarded by the American Academy in Berlin since 2007 to a renowned American or European figure of international diplomacy in recognition of his or her outstanding services to the transatlantic relationship. The award honors the achievements of Dr. Henry A. Kissinger -- author, Nobel Peace Prize recipient, and former national security advisor under President Nixon and secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford. A towering figure of international diplomacy and US foreign policy, Kissinger's initiatives for disarmament and detente in the postwar period helped to create an active dialogue among the world’s leading nations that ultimately resulted in the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. One of the founders of the American Academy in Berlin, Dr. Kissinger served as one of its co-chairmen from December 2010 to November 2011. The four previous recipients of the Henry A. Kissinger Prize of the American Academy in Berlin are Helmut Schmidt (2007); George H.W. Bush (2008); Richard von Weizsäcker (2009); Michael Bloomberg (2010); and Helmut Kohl (2011). For more on past prizes, please click here.
The entire 2012 Henry A. Kissinger Prize was generously underwritten by Robert Bosch GmbH, JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A., and Cerberus Deutschland. Lufthansa provided travel accommodations for the Shultzes.
The American Academy is grateful to these underwriters and to the German Foreign Office and to Minister Guido Westerwelle for their incredible generosity and professionalism in helping to organize and successfully execute the 2012 Henry A. Kissinger Prize.
All photographs: Annette Hornischer