Joachim Gauck gives a speech at the anniversary celebration of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.
Kai Uwe Oesterhelweg

This year's Reinhard Mohn Prize on the topic of "Living Diversity - Shaping Society" goes to former German President Joachim Gauck. In awarding him this prize, the Bertelsmann Stiftung recognizes Gauck as a bridge builder in a culturally diverse society. During his time in office, he focused on the successful coexistence of people from varying ethnic backgrounds and religions in Germany. In word and deed, he continually advocated for a new sense of unity that includes all people in Germany, regardless of their cultural identity. Gauck will receive the €200,000 award on June 7th in Gütersloh.

To live together successfully in diversity, we need people who shoulder responsibility and take an active stand for tolerance and understanding. The foundation chose to honor Joachim Gauck as one such person. Gauck forged links among various societal groups and encouraged people to meet and engage in dialogue. Liz Mohn, vice-chairwoman of the Bertelsmann Stiftung Executive Board, highlighted this, saying, "In turbulent political times, he has strengthened Germany's identity as a land of immigration and championed social cohesion."

"The striving of different people for what they have in common"

Gauck's tireless commitment to a free, democratic and above all tolerant society has shaped Germany. He has continually promoted understanding among cultures and religions and - in light of two dictatorships in German history - defended the values of an open society against its enemies. Liz Mohn commended the award winner: "As a person and a politician, Joachim Gauck has made an impression on all of us, and he has demonstrated how important it is to listen to one another, reach out, and maintain compassion and respect for others even when dealing with controversial subjects."

In his inaugural address to the Bundestag on March 23, 2012, Gauck outlined his vision of a new Germany. He foresaw a national identity that is no longer based solely on a common history, but instead, one that grows increasingly out of the shared destiny of different religions, traditions, languages and cultures, and "the striving of different people for what they have in common."

"There is a new German 'we'"

Even in view of the increasingly heated debate about migration and immigration, he made his position clear. The ceremony for the 65th anniversary of the Basic Law (German Constitution) on May 22, 2014, remains a powerful memory. On this symbolic occasion, President Gauck invited immigrants from 13 countries to a naturalization ceremony at Bellevue Palace. In his speech that day, he emphasized: "There is a new German 'we,' it is the unity of the diverse. We won't disappear if we accept diversity. We want this diverse 'we'."

The former president of Germany also remains conscious of the challenges and problems of living together in diversity. Diversity harbors the risk of conflict, and maintaining solidarity requires effort and hard work. Since leaving his post, Gauck has continued to promote the effective management of diversity. Among other things, he has held a guest professorship at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf since January of 2018, operating under the motto: "Reflect on the familiar and the foreign." 

In 1989, Joachim Gauck was co-founder of the New Forum in Rostock; in 1990, he entered the first freely elected Volkskammer of the DDR (German Democratic Republic) as an assemblyman for Bündnis 90 (Alliance 90). From 1991 to 2000, the Protestant theologian was Federal Commissioner for Stasi Records from the former DDR. He was a member of the Management Board of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia from 2001 to 2004, and from 2004 to 2012, he was Chair of the association "Gegen Vergessen - für Demokratie" ("Against Forgetting - For Democracy"); since 2017, he has been its honorary chairman. From 2012 to 2017, he served as the eleventh president of the Federal Republic of Germany.

About the Reinhard Mohn Prize

The Reinhard Mohn Prize is awarded in honor of Bertelsmann Stiftung's founder Reinhard Mohn (1921 - 2009). The prize is awarded to exceptional, globally active individuals who have played a key role in creating solutions for social and political issues. In order to identify and select a prize recipient, the Bertelsmann Stiftung conducts a worldwide search for innovative concepts and solutions to sustainability challenges with relevance for Germany. The theme for this year's prize is "Living diversity - shaping society." The Reinhard Mohn Prize will be presented at an award ceremony to be held at 11 a.m. on June 7 in the Gütersloh Theater.

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