Merkel: "The Foundation for Freedom Keeps Its Promises"
Liberal quotations and visual mementos from 60 years of foundation work are hanging from the ceiling in the huge former factory hall of the STATION Berlin. History meets modernity. To remember the past while at the same time looking to the future, this is what the ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom is about. The fundamental connectedness of past and present finds reflection not just in the decor but also in the speeches.
Have a look at the highlights video of the anniversary. You can select English captions in the YouTube video below.
Prof. Jürgen Morlok, the Chaiperson of the Board of Trustees of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, emphasized the special importance of political foundations at the start of the event, which saw the venue filled to capacity with about 600 representatives of political and economic figures and socialites. ‘Political foundations are a uniquely German thing, a feature of civil society that Europe and parts of the rest of the world are envying us for’. He quoted the former Executive Chair of the Foundation, Lord Dahrendorf, saying: ‘They are part of the intellectual side of things, yet oriented towards political practice’. In Morlok's view, they represent ‘an interface between scholarship and political practice and allow to identify guidelines relevant for longer than just the current election cycle’.
Promotion of Democracy and Freedom
Against this backdrop, Prof. Norbert Lammert, former President of the Bundestag and Chair of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, not just congratulated the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom on behalf of its sister organisations but also stressed the foundations' ties with each other, ties that exist in spite of differences: ‘They all have the same mission: promote democracy and freedom, each with their own approach and with self-consciously variegated accents’.
"It can be that public awareness of the importance of freedom was more highly pronounced at some points in the past."
The fact that educational work in the service of freedom is in greater demand than ever reflects a growing desire for authoritarian alternatives, in Germany and across the world. ‘It could be that public awareness of the importance of freedom was greater at some points in the past but still the cause has definitely not yet been lost, Lammert stated. But it has not been secure for eternity either. Accordingly, not just the Naumann Foundation but all other political foundations and the political class as a whole would do well to never lose sight of the topic.
Christian Lindner, parliamentary party leader of the Free Democratic Party in the Bundestag and member of the Board of Trustees of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, expressed acknowledgment for the work of the Foundation. The Foundation, he said, has earned respect across ideological and national borders with its efforts for democracy and against populism. ‘The Foundation helps encourage people all over the world to seize opportunities. Courageous, optimistic, and open-minded—I am positive that its founder, Theodor Heuss, would be proud if he could see how the Foundation has developed’.
Continuing where previous speakers had left off, Wolfgang Gerhardt, the Chariperson of Naumann Foundation, once again stressed the importance of the Foundation's mission: ‘Liberal politics, as we try to convey it, is never perfect. But it is better than any of the societal blueprints trying to suppress it. It wants a world in which nobody will ever again have to bend the knee for those who are stronger’.
A Big Promise
Chancellor Angela Merkel commended the Foundation for six decades of world-spanning efforts to promote civil liberties. ‘The Foundation for Freedom is a big promise. Naumann Foundation keeps its promises. It does not shy away from difficult topics; it speaks out on present controversies; it demonstrates what liberal conviction means today.’
"It demonstrates what liberal conviction means today."
Yet freedom is also an imposition, Merkel added. The imposition on people to take responsibility for their decisions, for themselves and for others. ‘Freedom is us imposing self-determination on ourselves, responsibility for our action and inaction.’ Precisely this is the perspective of the Naumann Foundation, which has been educating citizens and encouraging them to contribute to civil society for sixty years. The Foundation has been doing exactly what Friedrich Naumann, a man of action, would have wanted it to. Naumann's goal was to enable people to take charge of their own destinies. ‘Friedrich Naumann would be proud of what has been accomplished in his name these past sixty years. He would be proud of the many committed supporters campaigning for democracy, the rule of law, and the free development of human potential in Germany and elsewhere. The Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom: we will still need it in the future.’
Freedom is an Attitude
The future will be shaped to a significant degree by Prof. Karl-Heinz Paqué, currently Deputy Chairperson of the Foundation. This September, he will succeed Wolfgang Gerhardt in the executive seat. In his closing remarks, Paqué stated: ‘There is much to do in the area of political education—within our borders and without. This keeps us motivated.’ Motivation is an important prerequisite because, according to Paqué, ‘freedom is an attitude. Only those who argue with enthusiasm and passion can hope to convince.’
You can watch the recorded livestream in full length here:
This article first appeared on esee.fnst.org.