This is an extraordinarily moving moment for me to receive a prize in Germany from my friend Henry Kissinger. It’s sensational. I have known Henry since he was at Harvard and I was at MIT. I really didn’t know him then, but I would read these speeches by a guy named Kissinger, and he would take on the big issues. Mostly when people take on the big issues, it is baloney. But when Henry takes them on, there’s meaning, there’s content, there’s insight.
And so when we both, I from the University of Chicago and he from Harvard, joined the Nixon administration, we started working together, exchanging ideas. We had quite a few crises we had to work through together—Henry mentioned some of that. And then we stuck together. The first thing I did as Secretary of State was to call up Henry and say, “Hey, how about coming down on Saturday afternoon and spending a little time with me?” He has been a person I’ve learned from, been inspired by, and it’s been full of content, but I would say, Henry, that for me, the most important attribute is this gift of friendship. We have a deep friendship and always enjoyed being together and have that kind of link for which there is no substitute. So I thank you, Henry.
And for Helmut to be here, another wonderful friend. Helmut I remember I had just become Secretary of the Treasury and you were just shifting from being Minister of Defense to Minister of Finance and you happened to be in Washington. And I got a call saying you’d like to come over and just say hello for five minutes and make my acquaintance. A time was arranged and we wound up spending about an hour and a half talking about all this stuff. We clicked. And we’ve been clicking ever since. I think you spoke about the importance of developing trust—it’s so important in your relationships. It makes it possible to disagree and understand why. It makes it possible to find agreements that are satisfactory on both sides. It’s something very special, Helmut, that you’ve brought to me, and as I’ve learned from Henry, I’ve learned from you—not only when we were in office together, but since.
I do remember as it happened before I became Secretary of State, I invited Helmut over to be my guest at the Bohemian Grove. Then I was made Secretary of State and this weekend would be a couple of weeks later. Everybody thought, naturally I’d cancel. I said, “You’re out of your mind. This is my chance to spend a weekend with my old friend, who’s a leader in Europe.” We had some sort of a pipeline dispute that was poisoning things, so Helmut came and, Henry, you at the same time had as your guest Lee Kuan Yew, another old friend of all of us. Afterwards we came down to my house on the Stanford campus and the four of us sat around the kitchen table for about two and a half hours talking until our wives came and kicked us out so they could get lunch. But what a tutorial for a new Secretary of State: to sit around a table for two and a half hours with Helmut Schmidt and Henry Kissinger and Lee Kwan Yew! It was a great experience.
I have continued to see Helmut on every possible occasion. He’s visited my home at Stanford. We’ve gone over to his home in Hamburg. You go in the door, and there’s a bar, and he has a captain’s cap and serves you whatever you want. A great man, as you look over the landscape of the world leaders, Helmut Schmidt has to be right up there at the top. So I thank you Helmut and Henry for your wonderful words and for this prize. Now I was told that I also have the chance to say something substantive. People have mentioned my work on nuclear matters with Henry and others. We have lots of work to do, but keep at it! To those who say you’re never going to get there: let me point out to you that the number of nuclear weapons in existence today as compared with Reykjavik is only about 30 percent, so there’s still a lot of work to do but we’ve made a lot of progress. So I say never give up, keep working! We’ll get there.