His Excellency Joachim Gauck
Joachim Gauck was born in Rostock, Germany in 1940. After earning his Abitur (German university entrance qualification), he studied theology and became a pastor, serving in the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Mecklenburg from 1965 to 1990. From an early age, he became involved in opposing the communist regime in East Germany. In 1989 he co-founded the New Forum opposition movement and became its spokesperson in Rostock. He helped initiate church and popular resistance to the East German regime, and led the weekly prayers for peace that gave rise to the protest demonstrations. In March 1990, Gauck entered the first freely elected East German parliament as a member of Alliance 90 group of grassroots movements, and was elected chairman of the special committee overseeing the dissolution of the Ministry of State Security. On October 3, 1990, he was appointed special federal commissioner overseeing the Stasi records by President Richard von Weizsäcker. From 1991 to 2000, he served as Federal Commissioner for the Records of the State Security Service of the former German Democratic Republic. From 2001 to 2004, Gauck served on the board of the European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia in Vienna. From 2003 to 2012, he was chairman of the German organization "Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie" (Against Oblivion – For Democracy) promoting democratic principles and countering political extremism. On March 18, 2012, Gauck was elected by the Federal Convention and became the 11th President of the Federal Republic of Germany. His term of office ended on March 18, 2017. Since 2017, he has served as honorary chairman of Gegen Vergessen – Für Demokratie. He has been awarded numerous honors and prizes for his work, including the Theodor Heuss Medal, the Geschwister Scholl Prize, the European Human Rights Prize, the Ludwig Börne Prize, the Open Society Prize awarded by Central European University in Budapest, the Gilel-Storch-Award, the International Prize of the Friedrich-August-von-Hayek-Stiftung, and the Ján Langoš Award Bratislava. He has honorary doctorates from the universities of Rostock, Jena, Augsburg Münster, the National University of Ireland/Galway, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the Université Paris-Sorbonne, and Maastricht University. In 2018 he began serving as visiting professor at Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf and as Mercator visiting professor at the University of Duisburg-Essen. He is an honorary citizen f.e. of Berlin and of his hometown, Rostock. Gauck has lived with Daniela Schadt since 2000 and has four children, 12 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.