Outgoing President Joachim Gauck was once a pastor who lived in a totalitarian state. His past always remained a part of him, and had a great impact on his presidency, says DW Editor-in-Chief Alexander Kudascheff.
Joachim Gauck was the quintessential German president. After the terms of his two unfortunate predecessors, Horst Köhler and Christian Wulff, he restored the authority of the president's office. His authority was based on the power of words. Gauck gave stirring and inspiring speeches. He tried to make it clear to Germans what role they must play in the world, how they are viewed, and what is expected of them.
The former pastor would not take offense if one noticed that his speeches were often sermons and exhortations - they were words from the imaginary pulpit. The highly emotional and incredibly sentimental Gauck often let himself get carried away by his own feelings. This did not please everyone but it gave his office a human touch.
That is what made him the quintessential president. He is a man of words, a man who shows his feelings, a man who inspires citizens. And he is also a man who has also addressed awkward issues and shown he has a backbone. He demonstratively did not attend the Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi. It was clear that he was protesting against Russia's expansionist policy. He sparked a diplomatic scandal when he called the massacre of Armenians in Turkey genocide. His standpoint was clear when he received the Turkish refugee Can Dündar and when he stood up for Deniz Yücel, the German journalist who is being detained in Turkey.
During his presidency, Gauck was a man of words, a man of deliberate gestures and a vocal democrat, even in the impartial office of president. He was committed and sometimes even showed his rage. He was a courageous man who confronted racist crowds in eastern Germany and did not back down even when things became uncomfortable. Gauck lived by the values of the German republic, defending democracy and the inviolability of human dignity. His unyielding democratic attitude was incorruptible - something that was also the result of having lived in the totalitarian state of East Germany.
An unconventional citizen
Gauck was president at the right time. He was a man who found the right words and signals at the right moment and yet he was also an old-fashioned president whose rough edges had not been smoothed to the point that he had no personality. He decided against a second term because of his age. The vast majority of Germans would have liked to have seen him stay in Bellevue Palace, the German president's residence. Gauck realized that he no longer had the strength and he should also be thanked for this. He put the president's office above himself.
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