Lions Club International (Berlin-Airport Club)
Berlin, November 13, 2017
CDA Kent Logsdon
Ms. Lutter, thank you for your kind introduction, and thank you also to Mr. Schulz, for the invitation to join you this evening. This summer, I had the pleasure of welcoming a group of participants in the International Lions Youth Exchange to the Embassy. They were a great group of young people and fantastic young ambassadors for peace and international understanding. It was a pleasure meeting them. It was also an excellent reminder of what the Lions Clubs are all about – now and one hundred years ago.
Since 1917, Lions Clubs have reached beyond business issues and addressed the betterment of their communities and the world. Since 1951, we have had Lions Clubs here in Germany.
The spirit of ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ is a key part of the Lions Club’s philosophy. It is deeply embedded in American history and a fundamental part of the character of the United States. To this day, that spirit is continuously being renewed by citizens who generously give their time and talents to help others. Volunteers mentor school children and keep students on track for graduation; they care for seniors and veterans; and they help to rebuild communities after terrible storms, as we have seen just recently. Beyond their own borders, volunteers also help those affected by war, poverty, and disease.
In the early 1960s, President John F. Kennedy asked Americans, not to ask what their country or their government could do for them, but to ask themselves what they could do for their country. Millions of young Americans were inspired by that call to service. This year is not only the 100th anniversary of the Lions Clubs. 1917 was also the year that President John F. Kennedy was born. In this JFK centenary year, I have spoken frequently to young people about that legacy. I have discovered that this is one of the ties that bind our two countries. It is part of the strong and special relationship we share.
It was during the early years after World War II that the seeds of our 20th and 21st century partnership were planted. The Marshall Plan played a key role; and in fact we often forget how the Marshall Plan actually worked and perhaps why it was such a success. It delegated the responsibility for the investments that it made possible to Europeans themselves. It was felt that a foreign government or international organizations could not take the place of national initiative and vision, or resolve problems locally. As a result of the respect that was inherent in that basic procedural decision, a foundation of trust and responsibility was established. To this day, those basic values are at the very foundation of our multi-faceted transatlantic relationship. As Lions Club members, your commitment plays a major role in why the alliance between our two countries is so successful. It is not just a relationship between the President and the Chancellor. It is a relationship between governments, our militaries, academics and tourists, and our business communities. People like you make our partnership work.
There is, however, also of course a firm foundation for cooperation and close coordination and an open channel for communication at all levels of our two governments. There is an intense level of interaction between the Trump administration and the German government. That is not to say that we always agree. As we all know, sometimes partners in a mature relationship have disagreements – as we have seen in the past. The key, however, is to be open and frank in addressing differences of opinion.
I myself attended Chancellor Merkel’s first meeting with President Trump at the White House last March. Since then, they have met a number of times. They also speak frequently on the phone. Both the President and Chancellor agree that a strong and prosperous United States is good for Germany and the world, and vice versa. They also agree on the need for a strong NATO and European Union. And of course they also consult on key crises in the world, including the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.
Working together, we can make constructive contributions towards addressing the key challenges of our times. No single nation can combat global threats alone. Germany’s leadership role, both within Europe and throughout the rest of the world, is respected and appreciated. The German-American relationship is as strong as ever.
Again, that is due in large part to the commitment of people like all of you. The Lions Clubs here in this country – both this chapter and all 1,500 chapters in Germany – do fantastic work.
One hundred years ago, Lions Club founder Melvin Jones asked a simple questions what kind of an impact can people make of they put their talents to work improving their communities? The answer is a lot. Individuals can make a difference. I congratulate you on the long and proud history of the Lions Club movement. Happy 100th birthday!