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The End of Postwar History? (October 18, 1963)

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But what image of public life presents itself to us today? We run the risk that the productive vigor of our society will increasingly give way to indulgence in what has already been achieved. Eighteen years after the end of the greatest catastrophe in German history, our society is characterized by the often exclusively materialistic preoccupations of a large segment of our population. For this reason, one essential task of all the responsible forces in the country is to keep the drive that saved us alive for all time. It still has to be made clear that we must stop directing our strength and resources toward special or individual interests. Instead, we must be mindful of the big picture and make our actions consistent with common goals.

I am certain that I am expressing both a concern and a desire of the German people when I urge the government and the parliament to look beyond the wishes of special interests and focus more decisively on the fundamental questions of politics. Young people especially want to act in accordance with higher values and standards. They expect the state to uphold these ideals as well. Our youth wants to be challenged! The more deliberately and truthfully we address them, the more successful we will be in keeping them from losing their way and wanting merely to earn money and be well off.

Let us also try not to be overly hasty in labeling every demand put on the state with the word “social” or “just,” when in truth it all too often has to do with individual desires! Let us not ignore the fact that well-developed advocacy on behalf of private and group interests is increasingly accompanied by a lack of civic spirit! This is all the more serious, since the Federal Republic has granted its citizens an unusual measure of liberties in their private lives and assures them of its great respect for the value of individual development.

[ . . . ]

If, in political life, the state is therefore given the responsibility for defense and security, if it is to promote education, research, and health, if it is to keep the air and water clean, control traffic, continue building housing, and if greater social security benefits are demanded and the calls for subsidies and support continue at undiminished levels, then the citizens must understand that they are ultimately addressing themselves. From this perspective, the accusation that the state shows too little understanding and achieves too little only reflects the lack of understanding of the citizens. There are no state benefits that are not based on popular sacrifice.

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