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Daring More Democracy (October 28, 1969)

After a change of government that many saw as historic, the newly elected chancellor promised both democratic continuity and renewal. He addressed himself to the younger generation in particular, promising not only greater political participation but a lowering of the voting age.

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Policy Statement by Willy Brandt from October 28, 1969

Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, we are determined to protect the security of the Federal Republic of Germany and the cohesion of the German nation, to preserve peace and to work together for a peaceful Europe, to expand the civil rights and liberties and the prosperity of our people, and to develop our country such that its status in the world of tomorrow will be recognized and safeguarded. The politics of this government shall stand as a sign of both continuity and renewal.

We owe our respect to all that has been achieved in the past years – in the federal government, in the states, and in the communities, by all the people, from all social strata. Let me mention the names Konrad Adenauer, Theodor Heuss, and Kurt Schumacher on behalf of many others with whom the Federal Republic of Germany took a path they can be proud of. No one will deny, question, or think poorly of the accomplishments of the last two decades. They have become history.

The resilience of our free basic [democratic] order was once again confirmed on September 28, [1969]. I would like to thank the voters for the clear rejection of extremism, which we must continue to combat. (Applause from the government coalition parties as well as the CDU/CSU.)

Twenty years after its founding, our parliamentary democracy has proven its ability to change with the times and thus has withstood its test. This has also been noted beyond our borders and has helped to bring our state new trust from throughout the world.

Strict observance of the forms of parliamentary democracy goes without saying for political communities that have fought for a good 100 years for German democracy, defending it with great sacrifice, and rebuilding it with great effort. With objective criticism and national cooperation, the government and the opposition share the responsibility and task of securing a good future for this Federal Republic.

The federal government knows that this requires loyal cooperation with the legislative bodies. For that, it offers its goodwill to the German Bundestag and of course also to the Bundesrat. Like all others, our nation needs its internal order. In the 1970s, however, we will have order in this country only to the extent that we encourage the sharing of responsibility. Such a democratic order needs extraordinary patience in listening, and it needs to exert extraordinary effort on behalf of mutual understanding.

We want to dare more democracy. We will reveal how we work and want to satisfy the critical need for information. We will give every citizen the opportunity to participate in reforming the state and society, and not only through hearings in the Bundestag (Rep. Barzel: Hearings?), but also through our constant contact with representative groups within the population and by offering transparency about government policies. (Rep. Barzel: So the government wants to hear us graciously?! – Rep. Wehner: Calm down! In “new German,” they use the English word “hearing.” That’s all it is! – Rep. Barzel: Then he should say it correctly!)

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