On the evening of November 18, the American Academy in Berlin awarded the 2021 Henry A. Kissinger Prize to General James N. Mattis, former United States Secretary of Defense (2017-2019), Commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, and four-star Marine Corps general. “At a complex period in American history, where national divisions sometimes seem to override great national purposes,” Henry Kissinger said in prerecorded remarks, “Jim Mattis, by his demeanor, his erudition, and by his personal conduct, remains a symbol of the role that America plays in the community of people who defend democracy and freedom.” (Read Henry Kissinger’s full remarks.)
This year’s Henry Kissinger Prize recognizes General Mattis for his distinguished service to the government of the United States, the United States military, and foremost, for sustaining global alliances during his tenure as secretary of defense. “In keeping with our generation’s obligation,” Mattis said, “I salute the leaders devoted to strengthening trust between two of the world’s committed democracies and bringing us closer together. This award energizes all devoted to that common goal.”
The award ceremony took place in the Zeughaushof of the Deutsches Historisches Museum, before an audience of 200 invited guests. Laudations were delivered by Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, and Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO. President von der Leyen said, “Jim Mattis is a soldier whose competence is matched by very few, a scholar who cares deeply about the men and women in uniform, who cares deeply about his friends and, sometimes, even cares about the enemy. He is a man of the three C’s: competence, caring, and conviction. There are no better words to characterize this evening’s laureate. Dear Jim, thank you for your outstanding service to our transatlantic community. Thank you for your commitment to what the alliance between the United States and Europe can mean to the world.” (Read the full text and watch video of von der Leyen’s speech on the European Commission website)
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who spent much time with Mattis during his tenure, said, “Over the years we worked together, I saw Jim’s commitment to our Alliance. […] He committed himself and the U.S. completely to NATO and to European security, but he always expected the same level of commitment in return. […] Jim, thank you for being a steadfast ally, a skilled diplomat, a formidable Marine. But most of all, thank you for being my friend.” (Read the full text and watch video of Stoltenberg’s speech the NATO website).
In a moving acceptance speech, James Mattis said, “I would not be standing here today were it not for President von der Leyen and Secretary General Stoltenberg. That’s a fact; that’s not fiction, and that shows what the Alliance is all about. […] Our shared freedoms are our inheritance but also our promise to children’s future. When the date comes that our generation turns leadership over to the next, it is my earnest hope that our democracies will be on a stronger footing than today. In this effort, Germany and America will play key roles.” (Read James Mattis’s speech, as prepared for delivery; full video of the 2021 Kissinger Prize is forthcoming.)
The ceremony was generously supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, Robert Bosch GmbH, Google Germany GmbH, Dr. Ing. h.c. F. Porsche AG, and Cerberus Deutschland Beteiligungsberatung GmbH.
All photos: Annette Hornischer