Can Joachim Gauck Make Germany Likable?

This Op-Ed by AICGS Executive Director Jack Janes and Peter Ross Range originally appeared in the New York Times on Sunday, March 18. 

Germany is at a crossroads: become the Continent’s leader or be seen as the neighborhood bully. In a stroke of national fortune, it is about to install, as its next president, a man known more for his integrity and moral leadership than for his political acumen, a man who can help make sure his country follows the first course. Following the revolutions of 1989, principled leaders like Vaclav Havel of Czechoslovakia and Adam Michnik of Poland reminded Europe where the moral center of gravity lay; thanks in large part to them, what could have been a difficult post-Communist era was smoothed out. It may be asking too much to expect Mr. Gauck, another creature of 1989, to play a similar role. Europe today is more of a muddle than a revolution, and the drama lacks all romance. Yet with stressful times ahead, and the old cultural demons raising their heads, a strong voice of simple principle can be only to the good. Germans need frequent reassurance that they are O.K. The rest of the world likes frequent reassurance that the Germans are O.K. Mr. Gauck is in a position to give both.

Please click here to view the full text in the New York Times.

Please click here to view President Gauck’s Speech (In German).

Please click here to view Bundestag President Norbert Lammert’s opening remarks (In German).

The views expressed are those of the author(s) alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies.

Jackson Janes

President of AICGS

Jackson Janes is the President of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University in Washington, DC, where he has been affiliated since 1989.

Dr. Janes has been engaged in German-American affairs in numerous capacities over many years. He has studied and taught in German universities in Freiburg, Giessen and Tübingen. He was the Director of the German-American Institute in Tübingen (1977-1980) and then directed the European office of The German Marshall Fund of the United States in Bonn (1980-1985). Before joining AICGS, he served as Director of Program Development at the University Center for International Studies at the University of Pittsburgh (1986-1988). He was also Chair of the German Speaking Areas in Europe Program at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, from 1999-2000 and President of the International Association for the Study of German Politics from 2005-2010.

Dr. Janes is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Atlantic Council of the United States. He serves on the advisory boards of the Berlin office of the American Jewish Committee , Beirat der Zeitschrift für Außen- und Sicherheitspolitik (ZfAS), the Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association, and the American Bundestag Intern Network (ABIN) in Washington, DC. He is a member of the Board of the German American Fulbright Commission and serves on the Selection Committee for the Bundeskanzler Fellowships for the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. He is a member of the Cosmos Club in Washington DC.

Dr. Janes has lectured throughout Europe and the United States and has published extensively on issues dealing with Germany, German-American relations, and transatlantic affairs. In addition to regular commentary given to European and American news radio, he has appeared on CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, PBS, CBC, and is a frequent commentator on German television. Dr. Janes is listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Education.

In 2005, Dr. Janes was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, Germany’s highest civilian award.

Ph.D., International Relations, Claremont Graduate School, Claremont, California
M.A., Divinity School, University of Chicago
B.A., Sociology, Colgate University

Transatlantic relations, German-American relations, domestic German politics, German-EU relations, transatlantic affairs.