German President invokes Mahatma Gandhi in his maiden address

Joachim Gauck

New German President Joachim Gauck invoked Mahatma Gandhi in his maiden address as he sought to motivate his people to overcome their "fear" and to strengthen their faith in the country's democratic system and its leadership.

"In (Mahatma) Gandhi's words, a person can make progress and achieve success only with self-confidence. This applies to a person as well as for a nation, according to Gandhi. Therefore, I appeal to you all to begin building up confidence in yourselves," said 72-year-old Gauck, a former east German civil rights activist and protestant pastor.

Gauck was speaking after his swearing-in yesterday as the 11th President at a special ceremony in the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

Gauck, who has no party affiliations, was overwhelmingly elected by a special parliamentary assembly last Sunday after being nominated as a joint candidate of five out of six parties represented in the house.

Only the Left party fielded its own candidate.

He said that under the communist dictatorship in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), he had experienced that "fear can diminish or even completely destroy one's courage and self-confidence."

Gauck played a leading role in the "peaceful revolution", which contributed to the collapse of the communist dictatorship in former East Germany 22 years ago.

Born in the north German port city of Rostock, Gauck served as a pastor after studying theology and in 1989 he was elected as a representative of 'New Forum' to the former East German parliament in the first and only free election.

After the German reunification, he had worked for about 10 years as the federal commissioner for the archives of the former East German secret police Stasi and made public some of the atrocities committed by the communist regime.

Gauck succeeds Christian Wulff, who stepped down over a month ago, just 20 months after taking office, in the wake of allegations that he received favours from business friends during his previous tenure as the prime minister of the state of Lower Saxony.

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