Address by Dr. Josef Ackermann
October 14, 2003
Mr. Prime Minister; your Eminences; your Excellencies; reverend clergy; distinguished guests; ladies, and gentlemen: it is a great pleasure to be here, again, in this unique forum – now in its 38 th year.

Last year, I was flattered and pleased to preside as Dinner chairman. This year, I find myself on the other side of the table, as an honoree. I am in distinguished company as a recipient of this award. I am very proud, and grateful for this honour.

My dear Rabbi Schneier: in the 38 years of your foundation, there can rarely have been a time when the principles of the Appeal of Conscience have been more important to the world we live in. The outlook for the global economy is not clear. In the relations between nations, many tensions exist. Cultural and religious differences profoundly influence and color our outlook on the future. The prosperity of a few nations still stands in stark contrast to the hardships faced by many others.

For many people, in many parts of the world, the word ‘globalisation' has come to symbolise inequality, alienation, and mistrust. In some cases, these feelings have led to violent protests. And yet, we cannot go back: we live in a world more globally integrated, and more globally interdependent, than ever. This is a highly unpredictable environment. It is also a tremendous opportunity.

As an 8-year-old boy, growing up in Switzerland, I got an early lesson in the diversity of the world around us in my own ‘village'. A large number of new schoolmates suddenly arrived at our local school. They wore different clothes; they spoke a different language. These were Hungarian refugees, fleeing their homeland after an unsuccessful uprising against their Soviet masters. For a young boy, the world suddenly seemed bigger, and richer. Later, as a Swiss German marrying a Finn, my wife and I both encountered many new traditions and customs. For celebrations and family occasions, we often chose not the Swiss way, nor the Finnish way - but rather, we invented a new way. We took the best of both traditions, and invented a new one. Those were some of the best.

I believe we stand at a fork in the road. Some people believe that globalisation has gone too far. I disagree. Globalisation, in its most meaningful sense, has hardly begun. But by ‘globalisation', I mean more, much more, than simply the geographical extension of commercial or political interests. I mean the globalisation of the human spirit. That notion may sound very theoretical; I believe, on the contrary, it is highly practical. And what's more, this ‘globalisation of the spirit' can be a decisive factor for stability and increasing prosperity in a complex and uncertain world.

In my professional career, the world got even bigger, and even richer, when I encountered the United States. I was, and still am, deeply impressed at the way ethnic and cultural diversity form the very roots of this nation, and how America has benefited from this diversity. I was convinced years ago, and I remain convinced now, that the entrepreneurial dynamism which powers this nation, springs from a constant celebration and embrace of diversity: the learning, the adapting, the inventing and the creating which occur, when different cultures meet in a spirit of tolerance and equality. And, in America, diversity has proved to be a true source of ‘renewable energy'. Only last week, here in New York, Deutsche Bank sponsored our 9th annual ‘Women on Wall Street' conference. We were prepared for 2,500 people. Within 36 hours, we were already oversubscribed, and we had to close the registration process. This energy has ensured, that the United States has remained a magnet for some of the finest talents in the world. Americans have committed themselves to diversity; Americans have enjoyed sustained prosperity and stability. That is no coincidence.

But there is more. By respecting and embracing many different cultural origins, Americans have also fostered pride and allegiance to a single nation. A ‘one culture nation' was never an option; but a ‘one nation' culture has proved a powerful, unifying force. Diversity has not led to fragmentation; it has led to unity . And the lesson of the United States can be a lesson for the world now.

In Europe, the roots of separate nations go deep. Cultural, traditional and linguistic barriers are strong. Nevertheless, I believe that across European nations, the embrace of new and different cultures, customs and practices will be critical to our progress – both economic and cultural. As you know, Mr. Prime Minister: this spirit has benefited the development of Spain, a nation which is home to several ancient regional cultures.

This is particularly important in the relationship between the United States and Europe's biggest economy, Germany. In the last fifty years, this relationship has been truly special. Half a century ago, a unique model of collaboration and understanding emerged between these two nations: a vitally important source of prosperity and political stability, particularly at critical moments after the end of the second world war. These are deep bonds of loyalty and friendship, and at Deutsche Bank, we are determined to contribute to them inasfar as we can.

I am absolutely convinced that globalisation, in its truest and most human sense, can be an important, even decisive force for good – above all, now. Certainly, in my own institution, we are committed to furthering the cause. We have no choice: 124 nations are represented on Deutsche Bank's staff, based in 76 countries. Only by embracing diversity, and by binding diversity deeply into our professional lives, can we hope to build a unique team, with the richness and depth our clients expect. Four years ago, we merged with Bankers Trust – a bold step for a European firm. As we merged these two cultures, we tried to mix the best of both cultures. We tried to do things, not the Deutsche Bank way, nor the Bankers Trust way, but a new way. Enforced homogeneity – a ‘one culture bank' – is quite simply not an option for us. On the other hand, a ‘one bank' culture is one of our highest goals. But this is not just good business practice. It also goes to the heart of what we want to be, in the communities we serve.

Only if we respect our own diversity can we engage with, and serve, a rich and varied world around us. The Deutsche Bank Africa Foundation has created a wildlife park which stretches across three nations; we met challenges not only of saving and sustaining an environment - but also, increasing understanding and collaboration among three different governments. The Deutsche Bank Microcredit Development Fund has advanced money to support small farmers in India, and artists struggling to set up their own businesses in the Bronx. I do not mention these, just to highlight Deutsche Bank as a corporate citizen. What is really important, is the way we have had to adapt, to assimilate, and to learn, as we tried to contribute in different surroundings. This has been a process of re-invention: we are constantly pushing back the frontiers of our activities, in order to really make an impact. The result, every time, was something new; something different; something good.

My dear Rabbi, you have devoted much of your life to promoting tolerance and respect for diversity among the citizens of the world. These principles have rarely been more important than now. The world will continue to become more integrated. Dialogue between nations, and cultures, is more important than ever before. Globalisation is not optional; but the real choice we have, is the choice of making globalisation a force for good. If globalisation becomes nothing more, than an extension of our own interests, we will miss a tremendous opportunity. But if, as we ride the wave of globalisation, we embrace, adapt to, assimilate and celebrate the diversity we meet along the way – then, I am confident that our children will inherit a more secure, prosperous and tolerant world. Thank you.

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