Is there a particular term that can serve as a motto at the start of Frank-Walter Steinmeier's presidency? There was a word - concise, very ambitious - that kept recurring in his first speech after his election as Germany's new head of state: courage. Steinmeier concluded this speech by saying: "Let us be courageous; then I do not fear the future."
On March 19 Steinmeier will succeed Joachim Gauck, becoming the 12th president of the Federal Republic of Germany. Steinmeier's motto, courage, follows on from Gauck's guiding principle: freedom. The incoming leader, then, wants to encourage people. He himself highlighted the context for this in his speech, when he referred to the spread of uncertainty among people in Germany, as well as concerns for democracy, and stated: "The world seems out of joint."
If the 61-year-old president wants to encourage people, he can't just focus on promoting an open society. No, Steinmeier must also make a contribution toward closing the gap between "politicians" and "them" - people who see themselves as being outside of the system. It may be possible for a German president to reach the people whom politics can no longer reach. If, however, he is to be an encourager, Steinmeier needs to choose his words less diplomatically, less aridly, with, yes, more courage than he did during his time as Germany's chief diplomat.
As a former Lutheran pastor, Gauck's strength was, and is, that his words - often strong ones - stick in your mind. This is the level that Steinmeier, too, must attain, if, as he said in the run-up to the election, he wants to make a contribution toward "saving common sense in democracy." If he is to reach this level, he needs to up his game considerably, especially in big, official speeches. For this, too, we can, we must, wish him courage.
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