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Christmas Address: Johannes Rau, President of Germany

"The debates around the future will continue. But we must be on guard that our whole sociallife in all areas is not defined more and more according to the models of profitability and efficiency. Balance, capital and resource are indispensable terms in the econmy. However they do not belong everywhere. I believe we fall into a cul-de-sac when all areas of life are organized only according to economic laws.."
Christmas 2003 Address

By Johannes Rau

[This address is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.bundespraesident.de/dokumente/Rede/ix_93869.htm? Johannes Rau is president of Germany. His address "Education of the Citizen, not Homo Oeconomicus" is available on www.mbtranslations.com.]

Dear Fellow-citizens,

I heartily greet all of you who live here in Germany. My wife and I wish you a blessed Christmas.

Since we are given some moments of contemplation these days, let us look back to the past and forward to what is coming.

Firstly, everyone remembers what has happened in his or her private life. Some experienced the happiness of finding a partner. Parents may rejoice over the birth of a child. Others lost a close person through separation or death. Parents worry abut the future of their children. Some are anxious about their job or have lost their job. A new beginning turns out well for others.

But, dear friends, let us look beyond our private life - to public and political events.

When the Iraq war began in March, most of us were shocked and appalled, devastated and horrified. We are glad about the end of a dreadful dictator. However we recognize again that the problems of the world cannot be solved with weapons and military superiority alone. Peace does not come from violence.

Certainly, there are situations in which freedom and the law must be defended with force.

Therefore I thank all soldiers, police and the many civilian helpers who often serve people and human rights and protect against terror and violence far from home. We remember then and their families.

My thoughts are especially with the families of those who lost their lives. I also think of those who sustained serious injuries.

The past year was marked by debates over the radical changes in our country.

Responsible persons in the government, the opposition and the territories reached an agreement a few days ago. To some, the agreement went too far or in the wrong direction. To others, many things did not go far enough. Readiness for common action amidst the conflicts is important to me. Common action should not be trivialized.

The debates around the future will continue. But we must be on guard that our whole social life in all areas is not defined more and more according to the models of profitability and efficiency.

"Balance", "capital" and "resource" are indispensable terms in the economy. However they do not belong in every area of life. Otherwise the questions What does this cost me? and What does this profit me? will displace all other questions in families, partnerships and with children.

I believe we fall into a cul-de-sac when all areas of life are organized only according to economic laws. We miss essential things in life.

Neither the school nor the university is a business. Education is more than functional fitness. Education should help young persons to success in their vocations and enable people to develop themselves and learn to lead their own lives.

A hospital is not a health machine. Senior citizens must be helped just like young persons. Healing and nursing mean more than can be compressed in rigid inflexible service norms. I thank the relatives, nurses and caregivers who do far more than could be expected day after day.

The family is not a business. Families live from having time for one another, exchange, celebration, conversation, understanding and forgiving.

A society lives from flexibility and risk, from curiosity and expeditions. However society also lives from faithfulness and mutual commitments, from solidarity, engagement and devotion. This does not appear in any calculation of efficiency. The warm currents from which we live start from this engagement.

This may or may not be an accident. In the last weeks, two films with the word "miracle" in their titles have touched many people, "The Miracle of Bern" and "The Miracle of Lengede". These are stories with happy endings, stories that show that with all our skill and efficiency we all depend on the happy accident, fate or providence for something to succeed.

Every year the Christmas story tells of a very different miracle, a miracle par excellence. What appears here is what we could not expect or do ourselves, the message of charity and peace on earth, outward and inward peace. We rejoice every year because of this miracle that is never self-evident.

My wife and I wish you and yours that the message of Christmas, of peace in the world and of peace in us, may become reality again and again in our life - in small things and in great things.

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