On Thursday, May 30, German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the commencement speech at Harvard’s graduation, where she received an Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree.
While the German leader named no names, many felt her remarks were a direct rebuke of President Donald Trump and his administration.
Merkel decried the rise of “isolationism” and “protectionism.” Europe as well as the United States is experiencing a rise in far right politics of fear of “the other.”
Notably, she also urged graduates:
“not to describe lies as truth, and truth as lies.”
Whoever could she be talking about?
Watch part of her remarks below:
“I want to leave this wish with you: Tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, for nothing has to stay as it is”.
– Angela Merkel’s speech to students after receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Law Degree from Harvard University. pic.twitter.com/r144M2Qb6K
— James Melville (@JamesMelville) May 31, 2019
During the speech, Merkel stated:
“More than ever, our way of thinking and our actions have to be multilateral rather than unilateral. Global rather than national. Outward-looking rather than isolationist. In short, we have to work together rather than alone. You, dear graduates, will have a quite different opportunity to do this in the future than my generation did.”
“Walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness may exist between family members as well as between groups within society, between people of different skin colors, nations and religions. I would like to see us break down these walls.”
The world leader reflected on and acknowledged Germany’s history:
“I experienced firsthand how nothing has to stay the way it is. This experience, dear graduates, is the first thought I wish to share with you: Anything that seems set in stone or inalterable can indeed change.”
“I firmly believe that we Europeans have united for the better. The relationship between Germans and Americans too demonstrates how former wartime enemies can become friends.”
Her words on the importance of truth, especially from leaders, to move forward drew applause. Merkel said:
“That requires us not to describe lies as truth, and truth as lies. It requires us not to accept shortcomings as our normality. Yet what, dear graduates, could stop you, could stop us, from doing that?”
“Walls. Walls in people’s minds, walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They exist between family members, as well as different groups within the society: people of different skin colors, nations, and religions. I would like to see us break down these walls.”
In conclusion, she asked the graduates to tear down walls of ignorance.
“I want to leave this wish with you: Tear down walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, for nothing has to stay as it is.”
While some pointed out the issues of racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, and bigotry making a resurgence in Europe or issues with Merkel…
I think it’s about time all citizens realised the difference between policy differences and objections to totally unacceptable beliefs and behaviour (racism, lying, self-dealing). Oh how I would like to return to just having a difference of opinion with a politician.
— Amanda Snook #FBPE (@vandasnook1) May 31, 2019
…many thought Merkel’s speech was still relevant.
I feel quite chuffed and, if I’m honest, ridiculously proud watching this.
— Bettina Ross (@BettinaSRoss1) May 31, 2019
So you should be. She’s wonderful. As a fellow European I’m proud of her, too, for delivering such a powerful message to the USA.#peoplesvote
— Ellie S (@smileyplankton) May 31, 2019
Wonderful Woman. Wonderful speech. A truly Ethical person.
— Joslen #FBPE #LIBDEMS #RevokeA50 (@JosieParr1) May 31, 2019
And many brought up President Trump, although Merkel never explicitly did.
I bet Trump loved Merkel’s speech very much
— Frankie (@ChillaxBcn) May 31, 2019
He doesn’t have mental capacity to understand complex sentences.
— Žena (@daleta2016) May 31, 2019
It makes you weep at the calibre of our politicians.
— jenny newby (@Oldarry14) May 31, 2019
You can see Chancellor Merkel’s full remarks here.