As president of a reunited Germany, Richard von Weizsäcker contributed a great deal to bringing the Cold War to an end. In doing so he advanced the potential of Europe to act as an united force for a better world. As one of the three ‘Wise Men’ on the future of the European Union, and as chairman of the Independent Working Group on the Future of the United Nations, he has contributed enormously to international cooperation.
Richard von Weizsäckerwas born in Stuttgart (1920), the son of a diplomat. He studied philosophy and history in Oxford, Grenoble, and Göttingen and obtained a graduate degree in law. After joining the CDU in 1954, he became a member of the Bundestag (1969-1981), served as its vice-president (1979-1981), was elected mayor of West-Berlin (1981-1984), and served as president of Germany from 1984-1994. During his two terms as president he oversaw the reunification of Germany, making him the first all-German head of state since World War II. His manner of leadership and respect for others has led him to be held in high esteem, both by Germany’s political leadership and abroad.
Richard von Weizsäckeris especially respected for his speech of May 8 1985, entitled End of the War in Europe and of National Socialist Tyranny, during the ceremony commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the end of World War II. In this speech Von Weizsäcker redefined the remembrance of the end of the war from a sense of German defeat into a liberation from a tyranny. Through this new attitude he helped his compatriots comprehend the agony of the Nazi years and liberated the younger generations from being held responsible for what happened in the past. This new generation, according to Von Weizsäcker, must accept their past and learn from its consequences to be able to work for a better future.
Dr. Von Weizsäcker is a fervent advocate of democratic principles, tolerance, and social responsibility. He has been actively involved in food aid activities trying to relieve hunger throughout the world. He has received many honors in his career, including an honorary doctorate from Johns Hopkins University in 1993, the creation of theRichard von WeizsäckerProfessorship at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, and the Buber-Rosenzweig Medallion from the Society for Christian-Jewish Cooperation.Richard von Weizsäckeris still actively involved in politics and charitable affairs.
The International Four Freedoms Award is awarded to Richard von Weizsäcker for his dedication to democracy and freedom, for helping to fathom the sufferings caused by the Nazi regime and for his accomplishments in encouraging future generations to create opportunities for international peace and justice.