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Welcome to "Ask the State Department" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to State Department officials.

William R. Timken, Jr. , U.S. Ambassador to Germany led an online discussion regarding sports, diplomacy, and related issues on Monday, June 26, 2006.

William R. Timken, Jr. ,  U.S. Ambassador to Germany
William R. Timken, Jr.
U.S. Ambassador to Germany

Event Date: June 26, 2006

I welcome this opportunity to talk with you about the soccer World Cup in Germany, soccer diplomacy and how we use this "time to make friends" to further German-American relations. A delegation of 30 young soccer players participating in the World Cup Sports Initiative organized by the U.S. State Department traveled to Germany June 21-23 to attend the FIFA World Cup match between Ghana and the United States and to engage in program activities in Nuremberg and Frankfurt (Main). It was a pleasure to see young people from all over the world come together and become true friends during this unique visit to Germany. In addition to discussing U.S.-German relations, I look forward to exchanging views on America's important and wide-ranging relationship with Europe, as well as on other issues concerning U.S. foreign policy.

Chris from Washington, DC writes:

Why do you feel that soccer is not as intensely followed in the USA as in Europe?

Ambassador Timken:

Baseball, basketball, and American football are certainly more popular in the U.S., but soccer is growing in popularity. More and more young people play soccer and love it, including my own grandchildren. Germany is doing a great job putting on the World Cup. If just a bit of the World Cup fever is coming through in the U.S., then I predict that the sport will become even more popular. The World Cup 2006 motto is "A Time to Make Friends." Certainly, soccer as a sport has made a lot of friends.

Thad from Columbia, SC writes:

While following the FIFA World Cup, did you cheer for the U.S. or Germany?

Ambassador Timken:

We are very proud of our U.S. team. They faced tough competition and did a good job. There was a great contingent of American fans cheering them on, including my wife and me at two of the games. There is so much positive feeling about the German team right now in Germany that it would be wonderful if they won. But they, too, are facing stiff competition. May the best team win.

Jason from Colorado writes:

Being a Canton, Ohio native myself, I want to express my sincere congratulation to you on your appointment to the Ambassadorship to Germany. My question centers around the trans-Atlantic relationship between the United States and the EU, particularly Germany. A major rift, or cooling of relations, occurred with Germany during the period leading up to and immediately following the U.S. OIF and OEF campaigns. With the recent election of Chancellor Merkel, do you see that economic and political relationship returning to a normalized situation?

Ambassador Timken:

The German-American and the broader transatlantic relationship have improved considerably because of an increased emphasis on discussion and dialogue. It started with President Bush’s trip to Mainz and Brussels in February 2005, and under Chancellor Merkel's leadership, momentum has picked up. Probably the most important development of the last year, though, has been the establishment of a personal bond of friendship and trust between the President and the Chancellor. The Chancellor and the President have very similar outlooks, although their backgrounds could hardly be more different. I think that we can now point to more areas where the U.S. and Germany are speaking with a single voice – which will make it easier for us to achieve our shared goals.

Shannon from Detroit, Michigan writes:

Hi Ambassador Timken, if someone wanted to become an Ambassador what career path would you suggest someone go into to lead them to an Ambassador?

Ambassador Timken:

One way is to join the Foreign Service of the Department of State. Ambassadors can also be appointed by the President. In either case, I would recommend to any young person to get involved early in public affairs and politics. It may not lead to becoming an ambassador but it will certainly open your eyes to what’s going in the world.

Farooq from Houston, Texas writes:

Hello Mr. Ambassador, how long is the turn around for a person who has taken the foreign service exam and has passed the written part, oral exam and interview, before they are trained and into the field?

Ambassador Timken:

It takes months to complete the highly competitive examination and selection process, but I understand that the State Department is taking steps to speed things up. Check out the Foreign Service Officer FAQ for more information on this topic:  http://careers.state.gov/officer/faqs.html 

Abel from Colorado writes:

How is current diplomatic relation between the U.S. and Germany? Is Germany ready to participate in the reconstruction of Iraq after the war? What is the current hot political issue in Germany?

Ambassador Timken:

Whatever our differences were on Iraq in the past, Europe and America together are supporting Iraqis as they build their institutions of freedom. We must help them with economic reconstruction and development, and through political and other support. We appreciate the German Government's commitment to these efforts and we hope that Germany will be able to continue the direction it has gone in supporting the Iraqi government and its emerging democratic and security institutions in Iraq.

Germany is now considering labor market and other structural economic reforms. We have had to face some of the very same issues in America in today's rapidly changing global economy. The United States shares with Germany a critical interest in strengthening economic growth and prosperity around the world.

Alex from California writes:

Do you believe the pressure from the extreme right in Germany will increase? Are there truly areas that are not safe for non-Germans?

Ambassador Timken:

In every country of the world, there are regions in which you must exercise caution as a traveler. The German Government, and the state governments, have made it clear that they will not tolerate such attacks and that they will counter them firmly.

Rachel from Seattle, Washington writes:

I am a student entering into my second year of college and I hope to some day reach a position similar to yours. My question is: What is the best advice that you could give to someone interested in this field?

Ambassador Timken:

I have been involved with many business efforts to assess what kind of graduates business and industry need in this globalized world. It’s not industry-ready young people with special skills for work built into them that they need. They need graduates with the ability to think and learn, and the ability to adapt to new challenges.

Luke from Connecticut writes:

Thank you for your time. This fall I will be a freshman at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and am beginning to consider possible concentrations. How practical is it to pursue a concentration, and eventually career opportunities, in Germany and Western Europe? Will the European region remain a critical area to American foreign policy in the next several decades? Also, how essential is learning German to eventually working in Western Europe if most diplomatic dialogue occurs in English?

Ambassador Timken:

Learning languages is important but in this globalized world it is most important to understand the connections between what happens in regions around the world. Global challenges in areas around the world will require a level of leadership that a European-American partnership is best equipped to provide. A strong German-American partnership, standing at the center of a strong European-American partnership, is critical to face global threats and seize global opportunities to enhance our prosperity and security.

John from Centerville, Texas writes:

As far as North Korea, will Germany have a part in multilateral talks with North Korea about their possible nuclear program? What can be done?

Ambassador Timken:

Germany is very much involved in the discussion with Iran, but historically has not played a role in negotiations with North Korea. It is the United States, China, Russia, and Japan, in addition to South Korea and North Korea, that are involved in the Six-Party Talks on nuclear disarmament.

Albert from Milwaukee, WI writes:

What was the single most important factor in your decision to become an ambassador?

Ambassador Timken:

In early 2005, President Bush asked me to serve as Ambassador to Germany. I was 66 years old at the time. Retirement and spending more time with my family and on various charitable initiatives was next on my personal agenda. But I decided that I owed it to my country to heed the call of the President. My country had given me extraordinary opportunities. It was incumbent upon me to give something back. A few months later, my wife Sue and I were in Berlin, at the start of a new journey in government and public life that neither of us had ever imagined.

Chris from Dayton, Ohio writes:

Mr. Ambassador, Do you believe that a society's participation in international sporting events can cause them to become more "open" to the rest of the world, particularly because their citizens travel outside the borders in support?

Ambassador Timken:

The theme of the World Cup this year is "A Time To Make Friends," with an emphasis on building international understanding and respect between people around the world. Certainly the atmosphere at all the games here in Germany has been positive. Here’s hoping that it carries over into international relations when the tournament is over.

Thomas from Bloomingdale, New Jersey writes:

Based on your understanding of German Government's viewpoints, do you see a future where Germany plays a more active role in international peace keeping missions, particularly in sending troops to trouble areas around the globe?

Ambassador Timken:

Germany is an active and important member of NATO. NATO is the central institution for the European-American community to advance its security interests in the world, whether this is helping earthquake victims in Pakistan, supporting the African Union in Darfur, supporting peace and security in Kosovo, reaching out to countries in cooperation in the broader Middle East, or supporting security in Afghanistan. As an institution, NATO has never been as active in its entire history as it is today. Germany plays an active role in many of these missions. For example, with over 2,000 troops in Afghanistan, is the largest troop contributor to ISAF for which the United States is very appreciative.
Ambassador Timken:

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