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Serving Peace (July 1, 1969)

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Ladies and gentlemen, on the occasion of my election I received many letters from people representing all segments of the population and all professions, especially from the younger generation, linking my inauguration with great – far too great – expectations. I take these expectations seriously. To the extent that they refer to personal matters, they are cries for help from the manifold distresses of daily life, from hardship and sickness, concerns about housing, incarceration, and from loneliness and the experience of injustice. Such hardships are apparently greater than our affluent society generally assumes. In many letters, though, one also hears a voice of anxiety about the future, concern about jobs, fear of growing old.

In the last twenty-four years, much has been achieved and accomplished; yet yesterday’s accomplishments will stop counting as soon as tomorrow. Even yesterday these accomplishments weren't sufficient, and they won’t be tomorrow if we don’t keep accelerating them. Social change continues apace. Therefore, all of us are called upon to realize, with increasing effort, the demands of the Basic Law for extending social democracy. We have to recognize that the freedom of the individual has to be protected not only from the power of the state, but even more so from economic and societal power. The influence of organized interest groups and their lobbyists, often enough, stands in contradiction to our order, in which legal privileges may have been abolished, but continue to exist in social reality.

We have to develop ourselves within an achievement-, promotion- and education-oriented society in which the vision of freedom for all can be realized by having everyone receive his concrete and personal opportunity. Not less, but more democracy – that is the demand, that is the great goal that we have to prescribe for ourselves, and especially for our youth.

Some fatherlands are difficult. Germany is one of them. But it is our fatherland. Here is where we live and work. Therefore we want to make our contribution to the one mankind with, and through, this country of ours. It is in this sense that, from this place as well, I extend greetings to all German citizens. [Lively applause]

Source: Gustav Heinemann, „Der Frieden ist der Ernstfall” ["Peace is the Emergency"], July 1, 1969, Verhandlungen des Deutschen Bundestages [Proceedings of the German Bundestag] 1969, vol. 70, p.13664 ff; original German speech reprinted in Christoph Kleßmann, ed., Zwei Staaten, eine Nation. Deutsche Geschichte 1955-1970 [Two States, One Nation. German History 1955-1970]. Göttingen, 1988, pp. 548-50.

Translation: Jeremiah Riemer

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