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Full Transcript: Angela Merkel Commencement Speech 2019 at Harvard

Full text of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s commencement speech addressed at the 368th Harvard Commencement on May 30, 2019. Below is the edited verbatim transcript of the speech…

Best quote from this speech:

“Tear down walls of ignorance and narrow mindedness for nothing has to stay as it is.”

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Angela Merkel – German Chancellor

Thank you. And, I think, let’s start.

President Bacow, fellows of the Corporation, members of the Board of Overseers, members of the Alumni Board, members of the faculty, proud parents, and graduates, today is a day of joy. It’s your day. Many congratulations.

I am delighted to be here today and would like to tell you about some of my own experiences. This ceremony marks the end of an intensive and probably also hard chapter in your lives.

Now, the door to a new life is opening. That’s exciting and inspiring. The German writer Hermann Hesse had some wonderful words for such a situation in life. I’d like to quote him and then continue in my native language.


Herman Hesse wrote, “In all beginnings dwells a magic force for guarding us and helping us to live.”

These words by Herman Hesse inspired me when I completed my physics degree at the age of 24. That was back in 1978. The world was divided into East and West, and it was in the grips of the Cold War.

I grew up in East Germany, in the GDR, the part of my country which was not free at that time, in a dictatorship. People were oppressed and under state surveillance. Political dissidents were persecuted. The East German government was afraid that the people would flee to freedom. And that’s why it built the Berlin Wall, a wall made of concrete and steel.

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