Federal President Gauck to Hand Over Office to Frank-Walter Steinmeier
Enlarge image Federal President Gauck in Philadelphia in 2015 (© picture alliance / dpa) Federal President Gauck's final day in office will be March 18. His term ends at midnight, at which time he will be succeeded by Frank-Walter Steinmeier. A ceremonial farewell for Gauck is scheduled for Friday night in Berlin, consisting of an outdoor military pageant, called a Great Tattoo, in front of Bellevue Palace.
Joachim Gauck has served as Federal President since 2012. A former Lutheran pastor in East Germany, he became involved in the opposition to the GDR regime and in 1989 led weekly prayers for peace, which gave rise to protest demonstrations. Freedom, and the duty to protect Germany's open and tolerant society were the major themes of presidency. On his official visit to the United States in 2015, Federal President Gauck said he was struck by the similarity between the slogan chanted by East German demonstrators in 1989--"We are the people!"-- and the opening declaration of the US Constitution--"We the people."
Federal President Gauck: "The hundreds of thousands of people who chanted this slogan in 1989 had discovered for themselves the message which has characterized the United States Constitution and American national identity for over 200 years: 'We the people.' It is the people, the citizens, in all their number and diversity, who decide. Each and every individual feels a responsibility for society."
Enlarge image Chancellor Merkel congratulates Frank-Walter Steinmeier as Federal President Gauck, far left, and Foreign Minister Gabriel, second from left, look on. (© Bundesregierung/Kugler) Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected by the Federal Convention on February 12. In his acceptance speech the former foreign minister remarked that Germany has become an anchor of hope for many people in the world. However, he stated that Germany must have the courage to safeguard what it has. "Freedom and democracy in a united Europe--we want to defend this, our foundation. It is not invulnerable, but it is strong."