Former President Bush given award for humanitarianism Hopkins ceremony lauds role in reunifying Germany

October 10, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Former President George Bush came to the Johns Hopkins University last night to be recognized for his role in reunifying Germany seven years ago.

But Bush recognized that he was appearing under a deadline of sorts -- imposed by the Orioles.

Bush told the crowd at Shriver Hall that he had asked Hopkins President William R. Brody for advice on what to talk about in accepting the Albert Schweitzer Gold Medal for Humanitarianism.

"I said, 'What'll I speak about, sir?' " Bush told the crowd with a smile. "He said, 'Speak about 20 minutes, we got a ballgame on.' "

So -- for about 20 minutes -- Bush praised Schweitzer, joked about how his wife draws bigger applause than he does and credited the masses in Europe with the reunification of Germany.

"It was people throughout Central and Eastern Europe -- not foreign governments -- who stood up and collectively said, 'Enough,' " Bush said.

Looking tan and fit, Bush acknowledged that he made mistakes in his tenure as president.

"History will show we screwed things up, I'll admit that. But we got some things right," he said.

Bush also explained his stone-faced reaction when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

"I felt a tremendous surge of emotion when the news came through. But this wasn't a time to gloat. Hard-liners in the Soviet Union had just suffered an embarrassing setback, and I didn't want to do or say anything that might provoke a drastic retaliation in Germany," he said.

The award, named for the legendary physician and African missionary, was given to Bush for his role in the Oct. 3, 1990, reunification of Germany. It was given by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which was established in 1986 to "establish the cause of humanitarianism in the United States," according to Hopkins officials. Brody chaired the foundation panel that selected Bush.

Bush was also presented last night with a piece of a Koberger Bible, printed in 1486, as a token of thanks. The framed page was given by Lore Toepfer, whose father was the German grain merchant who started the foundation.

Pub Date: 10/10/97

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