The new Cold War center will now document how all of the events that shaped the city of Berlin and Germany’s division for decades after World War II were related to a worldwide set of events and decisions − which eventually reached another momentous milestone in on October 3, 1990 on the steps of the Reichstag. However, just as important as remembering these events is the need to recognize what the global connections, causes and consequences were at that time, so as to inform and enrich our deliberations and choices today and tomorrow.
Today, challenges that we struggle with in Europe or in the United States, in Berlin or in Washington, are not only a product of our local concerns. They often reverberate far beyond us and force us to look through many different lenses to understand what challenges and choices are at stake.
In Ludwigsburg this past week, the call was for shared responsibility to sustain the European vision. However, that’s not going to happen unless there is a political and institutional commitment to the future of Europe. There also has to be a biographical commitment. The young people of Europe don’t identify as much with the milestones of the past, but they must identify with some milestones yet to be set in the future. In her speech, Chancellor Merkel remembered that she was just a young child when Charles de Gaulle gave his speech in 1962, just one year after the Berlin Wall was erected. She said that she could never have imagined that she would one day be the leader of a unified Germany without that wall.
The question today is: what are those younger Germans and French now thinking and imagining about what they may become and what Europe might look like in their future? That will involve grappling with the rubrics cube of policy issues like the euro. It will also involve sharing a belief in the reasons those challenges need to be met.
My reminder about that need for a shared goal appears to me every time that I stroll through the Brandenburg gate. Then I always remember never to take anything either for granted or as not subject to change.