Wednesday, May 10
Bush’s grandson Pierce and U.S. Ambassador Amy Gutmann unveiled the monument Wednesday. The tribute to the 41st U.S. president is about his role in German reunification.
In the middle of his speech, Pierce Bush is overcome with memories of his grandfather, former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. His voice breaks as he talks about his Aunt Doro, how she once rejoiced that "a kind and decent man" would become president of the United States.
At first, it was not easy for him to finish his speech. He just joined U.S. Ambassador Amy Gutmann this Wednesday afternoon at 170 Clayallee - right in front of the U.S. Consulate - to unveil the statue of his grandfather. And he recounted how he was there when his grandfather became an honorary citizen of Berlin. He asked him: "What makes this city so special for you?
His grandfather replied that what had been achieved here was one of the greatest successes of his presidency. For him, Berlin was the epicenter of the peaceful reunification of Europe. That it is thanks to the prudence of George H.W. Bush that, against many odds, German reunification ultimately paved the way for a free and united Europe, is something hardly anyone knows better than Ambassador Robert B. Zoellick, then the chief negotiator.
He recalls the drama of those days on the occasion of the unveiling. "You never knew when the window would close," he said in the suddenly warm May sunshine of that afternoon. "There were so many uncertainties." And he stressed again what a miracle it was to get German unity accomplished in just ten months. "When you think about what you can do today in ten months, it's quite amazing!"
Zoellick can also recall the moment when the crucial friendship with then-Chancellor Helmut Kohl began. Bush had to wait with him in the car in the underground parking garage until a demonstration passed outside. He took it as a good sign that there really was freedom of speech in Germany, he said.
Grandson Pierce Bush, thinking back to the fall of the Wall, is convinced: "My grandfather intuitively knew this was a German moment." U.S. Ambassador Amy Gutmann also paid tribute to the former president - as a "true war hero" who was humble and courageous and better able to appreciate the miracle of peace than others.
"My grandfather knew intuitively that this was a German moment." Pierce Bush
Behind the scenes, Bush had acted quietly and carefully at the time. For Gutmann, the fact that Truman Plaza, which commemorates Harry S. Truman, who was president at the end of World War II, lies on the other side of the bustling Clay Alley closes a historical circle, since Bush was president at the end of the Cold War.
She would like the statue to also be a daily reminder of what is at stake right now in light of the illegal war of aggression on Ukraine: "President George H.W. Bush stood for democracy. He stood for self-determination, individual freedom, and the rule of law," she said. "At this time, as we stand together in support of Ukraine against Russia's brutal and illegal aggression, he continues to inspire us to stand up for our self-determination, freedom, the rule of law, and a united and free Europe."
With a confident, friendly look on his face, George & Barbara Bush Foundation CEO Max Angerholzer expressed hope that the statue will give a new generation of Germans an opportunity to reflect on the great legacy of the former president, who contributed to the peaceful resolution of conflicts through diplomacy and friendship. The statue is a gift from the Foundation to the Embassy.
Pierce Bush read a letter from his uncle George W. Bush, who is also a former U.S. president. He wrote that his dad worked hard for a peaceful transition to a reunited Europe. Afterward, the statue by U.S. artist Chas Fagan served for many as a selfie opportunity but it was also highly praised. It is large and shows the 41st president of the USA, who died in 2018 at the age of 94, with a confident, friendly expression on his face.
"We were very close," Pierce Bush said alongside his wife, Sarahbeth, at the end of the event, as champagne and Coke are poured in the background and embassy souvenirs such as T-shirts and baseball caps are offered. After the presidency, he said, his grandfather moved to Houston, and family was immensely important to him.
And he revisited the moment he was able to accompany his grandfather to Berlin City Hall, where he received honorary citizenship of Berlin. "I wore the same tie then as I do now," he said with a laugh. As soon as his two-year-old daughter is big enough to understand some of the history, he wants to come back and show her the city that owes so much to his grandfather's prudence.