Barack Obama is a good negotiator
Obama visit to Berlin : "It's good to be back in the heart of Europe"
Instead of a glamorous appearance at the Brandenburg Gate, this time Barack Obama has to pass cement sacks, red and white barriers and mounds of earth, he gets a good impression of the unfinished city of Berlin. A big secret was made about this performance, the 300 participants in a “Young Leader” town hall meeting had to remain silent for weeks and pledge to maintain secrecy.
But the former US President actually appears, for many Germans a projection of better times, on Saturday afternoon at Schlossplatz 1, in the former GDR State Council building. There is cheering, hundreds of cell phones are filming and taking photos of him. The pop star factor is still high on the former US president when he walks into the hall.
The staging is like before, above it appears on a large video screen. “Good day Berlin”, Obama calls out casually in German, then it goes on in English: “It's good to be back in the heart of Europe.” He is now in Germany for the tenth time. And then at the “Town Hall Europe”, a meeting with 300 students from all over Europe, he quickly gets to his heart's topic. "Climate change is an existential challenge for all people," says Obama. His request in Berlin: "You can change the world."
Yes, you can!
Change, Yes we can: Donald Trump has just turned the messages of his presidency by 180 degrees in the other direction. This is another reason why Obama with his Obama Foundation wants to convince young people around the world with millions of sums of the need to take responsibility in order to make this world a better one in times of nationalism, isolation and populism. To tear down the new walls in the mind. Yes, you can.
The Obama Foundation is the organizer in Berlin. The 26-year-old Aminata Touré can welcome Obama as a role model for a career advancing. Her parents once fled the war from Mali to Germany. She lived in a refugee home and is now a member of the state parliament of Schleswig-Holstein for the Greens.
Today the European School of Management and Technology Berlin (ESMT) is located in the former GDR State Council building. A private university - a forge also for future managers in the world of capitalism. In the stairwell, Obama can pick up a touch of the GDR, there you can see the huge glass portrait "Representations from the history of the German labor movement" by Walter Womacka. It is not the only contradiction, there are also some contradictions reflected in the person of Obama and the Germans' love for him.
Meeting with Fridays for Future
One of Obama's big topics today is the fight against climate change, he also met activists of the Fridays for Future movement in Berlin, including one of their faces in Germany, Luisa Neubauer. With their “school strikes”, they want to persuade those in power to finally take the obligations of the Paris World Climate Agreement seriously in order to prevent uncontrollable climate change.
But anyone who has seen the US negotiators around Obama's climate commissioner Todd D. Stern earlier at the UN climate conference knows how hard the Obama administration fought against conditions that were too strict. But they still professed multilateralism, which is in a dramatic crisis today. An agreement like the one in Paris would hardly be feasible today - but the US has left anyway. In Berlin, Obama cannot resist a swipe at Donald Trump here, even if he avoids his name as much as possible. He reported how difficult it was to get everyone on board.
Before his stay in Berlin - Obama resided here in the Hotel Adlon with a view of the Brandenburg Gate - he was in Cologne at the “World Leadership Summit”. There he emphasized that if all young people went to the polls and voted for climate-friendly parties, they could force changes very quickly. He always tells young people, “You would never let your grandfather decide what to wear or what music to listen to. But you let him decide what will happen to the environment in which you will live? ”He also repeats the quote in Berlin. He can talk, his charisma is enthusiastic, that is also evident at the Town Hall.
5,000 euros for a dinner with Obama
But he also uses it for his private business. According to media reports, tickets in Cologne cost 80 to 5,000 euros, but then with the option to attend dinner and take selfies with Obama. The Obamas cannot complain about a lack of revenue after the end of the exhausting presidency. According to US media reports, Bertelsmann subsidiary Penguin Random House will pay up to 65 million US dollars for a deal that includes Michelle Obama's bestseller “Becoming” and a book by Barack Obama. According to the New York Times, Barack Obama can get up to $ 400,000 for appearances. When it comes to money, he's just a little more subtle than the ostentatious Donald Trump.
In Berlin, on the other hand, he performs on behalf of the Obama Foundation based in Chicago - without entrance fees. “A handful of students were selected by us, we received an email two weeks ago that we could be there,” says student Kathrin Henze (37) from ESMT. “We weren't allowed to name the location or when it would take place.” She thinks it's exemplary that he wants to support the critical young politicians of tomorrow.
But in the end it is also quite an elite event - many of the participating students pay several thousand euros in semester fees. Some also see participation as a plus for their résumé. Shan Quia, who is aiming for a Master of Business Administration at ESMT, on the other hand, has a very personal concern. As a young mother, the 32-year-old is interested in how Obama managed to reconcile the presidency (2009-2017) with the role of father of two young daughters.
The good American
A lot of the questions are about the falling world order and fragile agreements, the role of NATO, migration, climate protection. Often with his left hand in his trouser pocket and the right on the microphone, Obama strides relaxed across the small stage, with people sitting in a square around the front of the stage. The entertainer Obama keeps throwing in a joke, laughter, easy game.
There is a very special relationship between Germany and Obama, he is considered the good American, a story of rising stars. 200,000 people made a pilgrimage to the Berlin Victory Column for the first appearance in 2008, when the senator and presidential candidate at the time emphasized the close ties, the historic achievement of the airlift and the transatlantic bond.
At that time, Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) is known to deny him the big appearance at the Brandenburg Gate in order not to annoy the Republicans, later as President he will be allowed to speak there in June 2013. It's a sweaty affair. “The fact that we can stand here today along the fault line that once divided the city speaks for an everlasting truth: No wall can meet the urge for justice, the urge for freedom, the urge for peace that is in the hearts of the people burns, resist, ”said Obama at the time.
His successor Donald Trump wants to build new walls today. It's very warm, says Obama. “I feel so good that I will take off my jacket and everyone who wants to do this is cordially invited. You can be a little more casual with friends. ”Obama, the big hugger, reconciliation instead of splitting. Today Obama and Angela Merkel see themselves as friends. She was awarded the Medal of Freedom by him, and he is impressed by the vita of the woman who grew up behind the wall and has been Chancellor for almost 14 years.
Decision on import duties
On Friday she had received him for a private conversation in the Chancellery, the warm welcome photo went around the world. A picture says more than a lot of words. Today Merkel seems to be far less concerned about distance and consideration for the people involved in the White House. Quite a few are wondering whether such a powerful message is wise, especially since Trump will soon make a decision whether high import duties should be imposed on German carmakers.
The economic indicators are becoming increasingly gloomy - and where Merkel was once considered the most powerful woman in the world, German foreign policy is lurching today, in NATO only the USA is annoyed about the failure to keep financial commitments and at the same time going it alone on the new Nordstream 2 gas pipeline , with which the Russian state coffers will continue to ring and which will create new dependencies.
But Obama already called for more funds for the common defense alliance, especially since Putin's Russia is increasingly unpredictable after the annexation of Crimea. Obama was only more discreet - while Trump hits it - Merkel's refugee policy is also a favorite field of attack.
The German view of US presidents is often a bit woodcut, for many applies: here the do-gooder Obama (57), there the bad person Donald Trump (72). The Obama nostalgia of the Germans somewhat obscures the fact that Obama's term of office is full of shadows: the massive use of drones with many dead, the long watching at the war in Syria, which has contributed to the huge flows of refugees to Europe. And the Guantanamo camp was not closed. In Prague he spoke of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and received the Nobel Peace Prize as an advance praise.
Today it is Trump who is at least trying to pacify the North Korean conflict. The former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) was just in North Korea and says: “We love to criticize Trump. But I think he's doing the right thing here. ”As the successor to CDU politician Friedrich Merz, Gabriel is to become chairman of the influential Atlantikbrücke, which is committed to strengthening German-American relations - a major challenge in times of alienation.
Trump practically tore up milestones of Obama's presidency in the air, from the Iran nuclear deal to the Paris climate treaty to the goal of a transpacific free trade agreement, the largest in the world. And he continues to work at the end of Obama Care, the mandatory health insurance for US citizens.
Shards of the Trump era
A long history also plays a role in everything. A press dinner in Washington was particularly painful for Trump when he was ridiculed as a guest by the speaker, President Obama. The correspondents in the hall laughed heartily, the entrepreneur Trump did not stay long at the place of shame - and has broken with the tradition that the US President appears there every year.
At that time, under pressure from a movement initiated by Trump, Obama had to reveal his birth certificate to prove that he was really American. Obama said at the time that nobody was prouder, nobody was happier than "Donald" that the topic could now be left alone. “That's because he can finally focus on the issues that are important, like: Did we fake the moon landing?” Obama said, followed by more blows.
Many believe that this was the moment when Trump decided to seriously consider a candidacy. And to get revenge on Barack Obama. He, in turn, is now relying on the youth, on networking like the climate protests, in order to remove the fragments of Trump's era. “Yes we can” he says to young people in Berlin. And grins his Obama grin.
Ghetto fist with Obama
Obama always sips coolly from his coffee mug, which he already belonged to the inventory at press conferences during his presidency. Katharina Schulze, the parliamentary leader of the Greens in the Bavarian state parliament, was also hosted after a sundae photo from California: Those who want to save the world shouldn't just fly to the USA to eat ice cream, was the message.
She asks Obama how he got over all the attacks. His answer, in a nutshell: he had read nothing about himself and watched no news. “I was there and I know how it was.” Schulze greeted Obama with a cool fist, the so-called ghetto fist. At the end there is selfie time with Obama, Schulze too waits like a teen for a picture with the still-hopeful.
But critical questions are non-existent here, it is like a bubble of its own, this is a Trump-free zone. It would certainly have been more exciting if there were controversial debates, not just academics and “young leaders”, but more cross-section of the population. And debates also about the mistakes of Obama's presidency, the contradictions between word and deed, as in climate policy - he tended to ignore Europe and focus primarily on Asia. According to Obama, his last words in Berlin are quite big: “Change the World!” Then some small talk, selfies and off to the plane.
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