Obama, Merkel exchange toasts in Berlin

June 19, 2013 at 5:05 PM
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BERLIN, June 19 (UPI) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel, during an exchange of toasts Wednesday in Berlin, said U.S. President Barack Obama embodies "the image of the United States."

Merkel, who hosted a dinner for Obama and first lady Michelle Obama at Schloss Charlottenburg in Berlin, said the reception showed "many people here in Germany feel a great sense of admiration towards you -- because, in many ways, you personally embody the image of the United States as a country of unlimited possibility."

"And I think that that was something that also came out very strongly in your speech today that you gave at the Brandenburg Gate, and I think it is a feeling that many people not only on the square in front of Brandenburg Gate were able to share and appreciate, but also the people who were watching the ceremony on television screens all around the country," she said.

Obama, speaking at Berlin's symbolic Brandenburg Gate, called Wednesday for a reduction of the world's nuclear stockpiles by as much as a third, and announced he will seek "negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures."

Obama, who is to return to Washington following his visit to Germany -- the last stop on his European itinerary -- credited German immigrants and German-Americans with shaping America since its earliest days.

"For our independence, we thank von Steuben," he said, referring to Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian officer who helped the colonials in the American Revolutionary War.

"For our prosperity, families like [those of automaker Walter] Chrysler and [mining magnate Meyer] Guggenheim, [food industry titan Henry John] Heinz and [confectioner Milton] Hershey. For inspiration, [Albert] Einstein, [Henry] Steinway, [John] Steinbeck, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig."

Obama drew laughter when he said young Americans "will always be grateful to Levi Strauss for their blue jeans" and Americans "will always be grateful especially for some very important German immigrants -- Anheuser-Busch," the American beer brewery founded by a couple of German immigrants, Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch.

Guggenheim, who was of German ancestry, was born in Switzerland.

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