On November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall, which had separated Russian dominated East Berlin from West Berlin for 28 years, was suddenly breached. Thousands of East Berliners rushed to push through the crumbling, graffiti-laden wall to see the glories of West Berlin. Most of these people hurried to the famous department stores to find the lavish goods that had long been unavailable to “Ossies” as East Berliners were called. But according to an article in the New Yorker, Angela Merkel, a young chemist in East Germany, did not participate in the rush for luxury goods. She retained her quiet, unobtrusive habits—took one look at West Berlin and then went home.
No one at this time would have predicted that she would become the most successful European politician of this century. All the important German politicians before her had been large, dominating white men. How could an unprepossessing, quiet woman ever replace them? But replace them she did.
Angela Merkel has always been very different from most politicians. She grew up in East Germany and rather than participating in social actions, she studied science. Eventually, she earned a PhD in chemistry at Leipzig University. It was not until the reunification of Germany that she became active in public life. Slowly and usually unnoticed, she became a major force in Germany and then in the European Union.
Merkel became overwhelmingly popular in Germany and throughout Europe. But when the migrant crisis occurred in 2013, she sacrificed some of her popularity when she welcomed migrants into Germany. Despite intense pressure from both the radicals and conservatives, she stuck to her guns. Eventually the crisis eased and Europe grew more prosperous and more united. Although many problems remain, we should acknowledge how much she accomplished and how much the world has suffered from not allowing women to take their place as leaders.
As Margaret Thatcher once said: “If you want something said, ask a man; if you want something done, ask a woman”. So let’s give a cheer for the quiet politician who kept the EU going through some of its most difficult days—Angela Merkel.