The current German president will not run for a second term in 2017 citing health reasons.
BERLIN- 2017 is expected to be the super year for German politics. The German federal elections will take place and Angela Merkel is expected to run for an unprecedented fourth term as Chancellor, despite mounting opposition from many politicians especially with regards to the refugee crisis.
Since yesterday, members of the German political parties have been looking for a replacement for Joachim Gauck, who announced that he will step down as German President after only one term. The reason behind his decision was due to health reasons. Gauck turned 76 years old this year and is one of the oldest active politicians to date.
When Gauck was elected in 2012, no one really knew who he was and what he stood for. Hence a summary of his life and times before 2012 can be seen here. Fast-forwarding to the present, there are a few items worth adding to his storied career which included:
Solidarity and Rememberance: Gauck will be remembered for showing solidarity to the country’s neighbors and allies. In particular, the importance of a strong European relationship with countries like France is of utmost importance, as both countries fought to near death in World Wars I and II. Gauck and French President Hollande commemorated several events in connection with these two gruelsome events serving as a reminder that war has never been an answer, and that out of the ashes comes world peace and unity, which is fragile but one that if maintained through cooperation and friendship can be eternal as the flame itself.
Refuge and Hope: Despite strong opposition from the right and the CSU, Gauck during a speech at the Intercultural Week in September 2015 was impressed at the way Germany welcomed refugees from the regions in the Middle East that are still at war. While he addressed the concerns of the resources being exhausted in Europe, his words showed that Germany always has an open door to those who seek refuge, even for a short time, because of its openness, the people’s open hearts and minds, as well as the flexibility and ideas to help the refugees feel at home. His support paved the way for new opportunities for new fields of work both for refugees as well as for those living in Germany who are looking for a job in their field, be it a German teacher or a social worker.
Champion of Human Rights: Whether it was addressing the issue at the United Nations in Geneva or boycotting the 2014 Olympics in Sochi as a way of showing political disdain to Vladimir Putin, Gauck was a champion of human rights, criticizing the policies that worked to the disadvantage of of the common public. Having a person who survived World War II and the Cold War and experiencing segregation based on his religious faith by the East German government Gauck used this experience to show that people of different backgrounds should be treated equally. This includes issues such as rights for homosexuals, people of different religions and of course, the refugees in Germany.
Great Historian: Perhaps the biggest sticking point is the acknowledgement of Germany’s recognition of the Armenian genocide in 1915-16 committed by the Ottoman Empire, which included present-day Turkey. As many as 1.5 million Armenians were killed through massacres and death marches. The Armenian diaspora had been campaigning to have the event be considered genocide by other nations. Germany, which fought alongside the Ottoman Empire in the losing effort but there was no evidence indicating its involvement, recognized it thanks to efforts by Gauck and later the German government. Unfortunately it did create a sticking point for a political freezing of relations between Germany and Turkey as its president Erdogan has denied such a crime. Whether Turkey will change its mind will most likely hinge on the country’s next leader and how he will lead…
There are many more accomplishments to add but these are the key points where one can say Gauck did a great job for a man of his age and stature. That his decision to step down in 2017 may have received mixed results, but it is understandable for sometimes even the best accomplishments come in small spurts. And when it is time to quit, then it is best to quit while fit. And when he leaves Bellvue Castle in Berlin in February, he will exit with a standing ovation from people from all forms of life:
Here are a couple questions worth thinking about:
1. How will you remember Joachim Gauck as German President?
2. What are your expectations for your next German president? (Remember: The role of German president and the US President are totally different as the former is a statesman and the latter leads the country)
Add your thoughts in the comment section as well as in the Files’ facebook page. Even if one of the two questions is answered, the Comment section is like a guest book, where you are free to write your thank yous and other comments to Herr Gauck for what he has done since taking office.