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Remembering George P. Shultz (1920-2021)

The American Academy in Berlin mourns the passing and celebrates the life of longtime friend and supporter George P. Shultz. One of only two individuals to serve in four U.S. cabinet positions, Shultz died at age 100 on February 6, 2021, at his home in Stanford, California. We extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.

Shultz was the recipient of the 2012 Henry A. Kissinger Prize, awarded annually to an outstanding figure in transatlantic affairs. The 2012 ceremony, held in the Weltsaal of the Federal Foreign Office, was attended by over 300 guests and featured laudations by Helmut Schmidt, Guido Westerwelle, and Henry Kissinger.

A Marine who saw action in World War II in the Pacific, Shultz’s public service dated to the Eisenhower Administration, when he worked as a staff economist for the Council of Economic Advisers. Having taught economics at MIT and the University of Chicago, he served in the Nixon Administration as Secretary of Labor, Director of the Office of Management, and the Budget and Secretary of the Treasury. Among Secretary Shultz’s economic and domestic achievements were the deft economic leadership he exercised when the Bretton Woods system was jettisoned 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 G7 summits. 

He reentered the government as Secretary of State under President Reagan from 1982 to 1989, one of the longest tenures in the last 150 years. He played a key role in maintaining the Western Alliance in the 1980s and navigating the turmoil surround the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty of 1987. He recognized early the opportunity presented by the rise of Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union. His counsel to President Ronald Reagan was decisive in setting the stage for the end of the Cold War and the reunification of Germany. Shultz has been universally recognized by historians as one of the most successful Secretaries of State in American history.

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 work toward global nuclear disarmament together 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.  

At the time of his passing, Shultz was a Distinguished Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, a position he had held for twenty years. He remained a good friend of the American Academy and attended the Academy’s 2018 alumni seminar, led by his friend and longtime Academy trustee, former Stanford President Gerhard Casper.

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