Budapest, May 30, 2017 – Mr. Joachim Gauck has been awarded the 2017 Open Society Prize in recognition of his courageous defense of human rights and his distinguished record in the service of free societies. Mr. Gauck, called “a true teacher of democracy” by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, served as president of Germany from 2012 to 2017.
The CEU Open Society Prize was first presented to Sir Karl Popper in 1994. Subsequent winners include Vaclav Havel, Arpad Goncz, Ricardo Lagos, Carla Del Ponte, Kofi Annan, Javier Solana, Kristalina Georgieva and Richard C. Holbrooke.
Mr. Gauck will receive the award at CEU's 26th commencement ceremony in Budapest on June 23.
“The promotion of freedom and democracy was and is of great importance to me, ” Mr. Gauck wrote in his acceptance letter. “It is a great honor for me to accept this unique prize.”
Raised in an anti-Communist family in East Germany, Mr. Gauck studied theology and served as a Lutheran pastor. In 1989, he was a co-founder of the New Forum opposition movement which mobilized early resistance to the East German regime.
When Germany was reunited after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mr. Gauck led the investigation into the activities of the Stasi, the East German secret police, later serving as Federal Commissioner for the Stasi Records, until 2000.
In congratulating Mr. Gauck on the CEU’s award of the Open Society Prize, CEU Founder and Honorary Chairman George Soros said, “Joachim Gauck has spent his life ensuring that people who suffered under communism were not forgotten and that the crimes of the Stasi did not go unpunished.”
Mr. Gauck published a treatise in defense of human rights around the globe – Freedom. A Plea – before being elected to the German presidency in 2012.
“Joachim Gauck is a living embodiment of open society and its values” said Michael Ignatieff, President and Rector of CEU. “He has stood for justice, dignity and forgiveness all his life. His example of civic courage and public leadership is an inspiration to the entire CEU community.”
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