Assembly Hall Address :: Can-Pop Assembly

Assembly Hall Address

Assembly Hall

Dr. Gerstenmaier, President Kiesinger, Vice Chancellor Erhard, Minister-President Zinn, Mayor Bockelmann, ladies and gentlemen:

I am most honored, Mr. President, to be able to speak in this city before this audience, for in this hall I am able to address myself to those who lead and serve all segments of a democratic system-mayors, governors, members of cabinets, civil servants, and concerned citizens. As one who has known the satisfaction of the legislator's life, I am particularly pleased that so many members of your Bundestag and Bundesrat are present today, for the vitality of your legislature has been a major factor in your demonstration of a working democracy, a democracy worldwide in its influence. In your company also are several of the authors of the Federal Constitution who have been able through their own political service to give a new and lasting validity to the aims of the Frankfurt Assembly.

One hundred and fifteen years ago a most learned Parliament was convened in this historic hall. Its goal was a united German Federation. Its members were poets and professors, lawyers and philosophers, doctors and clergymen, freely elected in all parts of the land. No nation applauded its endeavors as warmly as my own. No assembly ever strove more ardently to put perfection into practice. And though in the end it failed, no other building in Germany deserves more the title of "cradle of German democracy."

But can there be such a title? In my own home city of Boston, Faneuil Hall-once the meeting-place of the authors of the American Revolution-has long been known as the "cradle of American liberty." But when, in 1852, the Hungarian patriot Kossuth addressed an audience there, he criticized its name. "It is, " he said, "a great name-but there is something in it which saddens my heart. You should not say 'American liberty.' You should say 'liberty in America. Liberty should not be either American or European-it should just be 'liberty.'"

Kossuth was right. For unless liberty flourishes in all lands, it cannot flourish in one. Conceived in one hall, it must be carried out in many. Thus, the seeds of the American Revolution had been brought earlier from Europe, and they later took root around the world. And the German Revolution of 1848 transmitted ideas and idealists to America and to other lands. Today, in 1963, democracy and liberty are more international than ever before. And the spirit of the Frankfurt Assembly, like the spirit of Faneuil Hall, must live in many hearts and nations if it is to live at all.

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