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Angela Merkel became the first German Chancellor to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress. She used the opportunity to thank the United States for its critical role in bringing down the Berlin Wall and reuniting not only Germany but Europe.
"We Germans know," said Chancellor Merkel, "how much we owe to you, our American friends. We as a nation, and I personally, will never forget that."
Chancellor Merkel is the first leader of a reunited Germany to grow up under communist rule. "The Wall, barbed wire and orders to shoot limited my access to the free world," said Chancellor Merkel of her early years in the former East Germany.
In the 1980s the common quest for freedom in Eastern Europe unleashed an incredible force that eventually toppled Communist regimes throughout the region and ultimately the Soviet Union itself. "Where there was once only a dark wall," said Chancellor Merkel, "a door suddenly opened and we all walked through it: onto the streets, into the churches, across the borders."
It is this "incredible gift of freedom" that has paved the way for a united, democratic, and prosperous Germany in the heart of Europe. Over the last 20 years, the alliance between the U.S. and Germany, said President Barack Obama, has been an extraordinary pillar of the transatlantic relationship.
Germany has been a strong ally on a host of issues, including Afghanistan where German soldiers are on the ground working to bring peace and stability to the country. Chancellor Merkel is also committed to dealing with the issue of climate change and supports efforts to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons.
It is shared values that bring Europeans and Americans closer together and keeps them close, said Chancellor Merkel. It is the common idea of the inalienable rights of the individual. It is a common understanding that freedom entails responsibility. These are the values that brought about the end of the Cold War, and it is these beliefs that will continue to guide a united Germany and the trans-Atlantic alliance.
The United States looks forward to many more years in which the American people and the German people are working together to expand the boundaries of freedom and to create prosperity for ordinary men and women on both sides of the Atlantic.