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Visit to Harvard University

Chancellor's speech at Harvard

In the USA, Chancellor Angela Merkel has been awarded an honorary doctor of law degree by Harvard University. At the 368th Commencement Exercises, or graduation, she gave the Commencement Speech in front of the graduates of the university – and gave them six thoughts to take with them for their future.

Chancellor Angela Merkel at Harvard Chancellor Angela Merkel at Harvard: "Pull down the walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, because nothing has to stay the way it is." Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

Chancellor Angela Merkel has attended this year’s Commencement Exercises at Harvard University. She was awarded an honorary doctoral degree from the oldest university in the USA – a great honour for her personally, but also for Germany, which she represents. 

Speaking in front of around 20,000 Harvard graduates, students, parents, staff and invited guests, the Chancellor gave the main speech, known as the Commencement Speech. She shared experiences from her own life, spoke about life in the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany, and about 1989, the year that the desire for freedom released incredible forces everywhere in Europe.

Six take-away thoughts for graduates

In her speech, Chancellor Angela Merkel gave Harvard graduates six thoughts to take away with them:

  • "Pull down the walls of ignorance and narrow-mindedness, because nothing has to stay as it is."
  • "Act together – in the interests of a multilateral, global world."
  • "Keep asking yourself -  Am I doing this because it is right or only because it is possible?"
  • "Don’t forget, freedom can never be taken for granted."
  • "Surprise yourself with what is possible."
  • "Remember, openness always means risks. To begin something new you need to let go of the old. And most of all, nothing should be taken for granted, everything is possible."

A special bond between Harvard and Germany

The special bond between not only Harvard, but also the USA and Germany is illustrated by the invitations extended by the University to several German Chancellors to take part in Commencement ceremonies.

Chancellors Konrad Adenauer (1955), Helmut Schmidt (1979) and Helmut Kohl (1990) were all invited to give the main speech at Harvard Commencement. Federal President Richard von Weizsäcker was an invited guest in 1987.

Meeting at the Center of European Studies

Chancellor Angela Merkel travelled to Boston purely to visit Harvard University and take part in the 368th Commencement celebrations. During her visit she also met with the Governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, as well as with representatives of the Center of European Studies at Harvard University and with German students.

May 30, 2019