Remarks for the M100 Media Award honoring the people of Ukraine
Chancellor Scholz, your excellencies, and ladies and gentlemen, it is a true privilege to join you in honoring the Ukrainian people for their courage and their heroic fight for a future rooted in dignity, decency, and democracy. Across Ukraine, people are courageously defending nothing less than the right to a fairer, freer, more prosperous country.
And I hope you will permit me to speak from my heart as well as my head tonight. September is back to school time. According to my mother, I used to sharpen my pencils for elementary school early in August. For millions of Ukrainian children, the first day of school this year was not one of excitement. It was anything but one of excitement. It was just a confirmation of the bleak season of war. This for children.
I learned from my father, who fled Nazi Germany, and from my experience as a teacher, scholar, and university leader, that education goes far beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. Education at its best effectively empowers us to stand up for our convictions and commitments. That is why tyrants lose no time in taking control of educational institutions.
I was always excited to go to school because having no one in my family who graduated college and coming from a very low income family, I knew that education was the key to opportunity not only for myself but also for my family. Russian bombs have wantonly damaged and destroyed thousands of Ukrainian schools. Almost half of the nation’s six million children have been brutally forced from their homes. Far away from their fathers whose lives are on the front lines, some two million children are estimated to be living outside Ukraine. They are either logging on to school remotely or doing their best at integrating into classes taught in foreign languages.
On behalf of my country, I thank Poland, and I thank Germany, and I thank all the countries in Europe for all they are doing to support Ukrainian students, and their refugee families. And I think we should give them all of our appreciation. This is one of the many critically important ways –humanitarian, economic, and military – that Germany is aiding Ukraine in their defense of democracy.
The Ukrainian people are on the frontlines of that battle for democracy. Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine is one of many conflicts around the globe where our basic democratic freedoms are threatened. To defend democracy, this is the defining challenge of our time.
The courage of the Ukrainian people today builds on the efforts of all those who, over the past three decades, have dedicated their lives to strengthening democracy, to fighting corruption, and to defending a sovereign and free Ukrainian state.
Every day since February 24th, the Ukrainian people have demonstrated their courageous commitment to these values. And the world has taken note. As President Biden and Chancellor Scholz both have emphasized, we will be with the Ukrainian people for as long as it takes for them to win. We will be there. Just as the Ukrainian people surprised Putin, as President Biden said, they also “inspired the world with their sacrifice, grit and battlefield success.” An even stronger Ukraine will emerge from this conflict.
We say to all who may try to divide us, you will not succeed. You will not succeed. You will only bring us even closer together because we are absolutely united in our mutual defense of democratic sovereignty and the freedom of our citizens. We shall not waver in our support to the Ukrainian people in their fight for their freedom.
They are also fighting for us. A democratic, prosperous, and secure Ukraine is in all our interest. Neither the U.S. nor Germany nor any country is truly secure unless we come together to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all nations, and the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people. No country alone can address the enormous threats we face.
President Biden knows this, and we as a country are acting and doing our best to ally with everybody who is willing to do the right thing for our Ukrainian brother and sisters.
Only a free and open world and society can effectively cooperate to develop and deploy the innovation needed to live up to, to face to our greatest challenges—among those challenges, developing reliable and sustainable energy sources, addressing the impact of climate change, combatting food insecurity, and tackling the threat of global pandemics. The proof? Free societies share their discoveries. And an area where our sanctions are hurting Russia most is its lack of access to critically important technology from the U.S. and Europe.
We have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with unity of purpose and action. Germany has been a leader of this renewed transatlantic solidarity.
Chancellor Scholz, we watched with the utmost admiration and respect as you announced a historic turning point for Germany – a turning point that comes with concrete actions: deciding to modernize Germany’s military; to meet the NATO commitment of 2% defense; to guarantee a secure, diverse energy supply for the German people; and to never waver in your support for the Ukrainian people as they fight for their freedom.
President Biden and the U.S. Congress have also been crystal clear about the unwavering U.S. commitment to military, economic, and humanitarian support for Ukraine – no matter how long this tragic war goes on.
The M100 media award is given to outstanding individuals who are committed to strengthening democracy. This year, without a doubt, no one is more deserving of this award than the Ukrainian people. They have truly inspired the world.
Because this is a media prize, I would also like to salute the work of the journalists who are covering this war. The Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine is one of many conflicts around the globe where journalists are risking their lives every day for the cause of freedom and democracy. The weapons with which they defend democracy are not those of the battlefield. But make no mistake: those weapons are essential to countering Putin’s campaign of disinformation and misinformation. That too is a brutal campaign.
Thanks to courageous journalists, we have been informed and educated by images from Ukraine and messages of the greatest immediacy. The extent of devastation and the human toll of this war is as necessary to witness as it is painful. For many, it revives memories of World War II. And I have to speak personally. If we mean “never again”, we must be with Ukraine until it wins.
For all, the journalists are documenting the war’s impact on the children of Ukraine, daughters and sons who have a right to grow up in a world where freedom and opportunity are the norm, not the exception, children who have a right to look forward to their first day of school – to sharpening their pencils, not to counting the number of burned-out tanks or ravaged homes and hospitals on their way to school.
Freedom and opportunity for all that is what democracy is all about. We have yet to achieve the full promise of democracy, but only democracy holds that promise for those young children. This is why democracy is worth defending. And this is what the Ukrainian people are doing every day – for us all. So let me conclude by simply saying, we honor them and we will always stand with them. Thank you.