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A Centennial Birthday

The Board of Trustees of the American Academy in Berlin extends its heartfelt congratulations to founding chairman Henry Kissinger on the occasion of his 100th birthday.

The American Academy in Berlin owes an enormous debt of gratitude to Dr. Kissinger for all he has done for our institution. Present from the institution’s earliest days, he has been instrumental in shaping the Academy’s mission and work over the succeeding decades. In 2007, the American Academy established the Henry A. Kissinger Prize in his honor, which has since then been awarded to outstanding European or American figures for their contributions to the transatlantic relationship. Among the recipients are Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Kohl, George H.W. Bush, Angela Merkel, George Shultz, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Henry Kissinger’s guidance, wisdom, and unfailing humor over the years have contributed profoundly to the character and success of the American Academy in Berlin.

Born in Fürth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, Kissinger fled Nazi persecution with his family in 1938, first to London and eventually New York. He became an American citizen on June 19, 1943, the year he joined the US Army to return to Germany to fight against the Nazi regime.

From 1954 until 1969, Kissinger taught as a member of the Government Department at Harvard, where he also directed the acclaimed Harvard International Seminar. During this time, he served as an adviser to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. In Nixon’s administration, he served as National Security Advisor beginning on January 20, 1969, and continued in that position until 1975 under President Gerald Ford. On September 22, 1973, Kissinger was sworn in as the fifty-sixth Secretary of State, becoming the first person to simultaneously serve as both Secretary of State and National Security Adviser. He held the position of Secretary of State until the end of President Gerald Ford’s term in January 1977.

The recipient of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize, Kissinger also received the 1977 Presidential Medal of Freedom and the 1986 Medal of Liberty. He is the author of more than 15 books and hundreds of articles and editorials on United States foreign policy, international affairs, diplomatic history, and the future of artificial intelligence, among other topics. In 1981, Kissinger founded Kissinger Associates, Inc., an international consulting firm that assists clients in identifying strategic partners and investment opportunities and advising them on government relations. He has also served on numerous government advisory bodies and as a director or trustee of private firms, research institutes, and NGOs.

In 1994, Kissinger was approached by then-ambassador to Germany Richard Holbrooke to become a chairman of the newly founded American Academy in Berlin, along with then-president of Germany Richard von Weizsäcker, both of whom were to represent the guiding idea behind the American Academy: the essential importance of the German-American relationship.

The idea behind the establishment of the American Academy in Berlin, Kissinger said from the outset, was the replacement of a US military presence in Berlin with an intellectual and cultural one. In many ways, Kissinger saw the American Academy as a bookend on a peacefully resolved Cold War, where American ideas and values would become a permanent presence in the German capital’s cultural and social landscape. His steadfast guidance has insured in many ways that the Academy has remained true to this original mission— one made all the more vital during periods both of challenging disagreements within the German-American relationship over the past 25 years as well as at a time like the present, when an external threat has appeared in the form of the conflict in Ukraine.

Dr. Henry Kissinger is one of the giants of the last century not only of American or transatlantic but indeed global history. The American Academy in Berlin is deeply grateful for his longstanding engagement with our institution. On this special day, we wish him good health and happiness and look forward to his continued insights into the world we inhabit. May his 100th birthday be a celebration of an extraordinary life and legacy.

The short congratulatory video below features Kissinger speaking about his support of the American Academy in Berlin. Enjoy.

Happy 100th Birthday, Henry!

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