Obama awards German chancellor highest civilian honour
US President Barack Obama presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour given to a civilian by the US government, DPA reported.
Obama gave the medal to Merkel Tuesday at a rare state dinner designed to honour the chancellor as the first East German to lead a united Germany after the fall of the Eastern Bloc and for her commitment to freedom.
"Tonight we honour Angela Merkel not for being denied her freedom or even for having gained her freedom but for what she did with her freedom," Obama said, praising Merkel also for becoming Germany's first female chancellor.
Obama raised a glass to toast Merkel at the lavish evening event at the White House, which was the first in nearly 20 years for a German leader and was meant to symbolize the close friendship between the two countries.
In thanking Obama for the award, Merkel said, "I see the Presidential Medal of Freedom as a testimony of the excellent German-American partnership. Our countries stand together for peace and freedom."
"The yearning for freedom cannot be contained by walls for long," she said, noting the award was also for the men and women who fought against communism.
The menu, designed to celebrate the first harvest of spring, included many herbs and vegetables grown in the White House garden created by first lady Michelle Obama. The first course was a chopped salad, followed by a second course of tuna tartar.
The main course was Maryland blue crab ravioli served on a bed of wild ramp puree, followed by apple strudel for desert.
The evening's entertainment included the National Symphony Orchestra and musicians George Li and James Taylor.
Obama had met with Merkel earlier Tuesday for discussions on a wide range of international issues. She also attended a luncheon at the State Department hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.