We are delighted to announce that Dr Corinne Michaela Flick has been awarded the Prize for Understanding and Tolerance of the Jewish Museum Berlin on Saturday, 11th November 2023. The Convoco team would like to congratulate Corinne Flick and Wolfgang Ischinger, the second prizewinner of the evening.
Read here excerpts from the laudatory speech by Prof Jörn Leonhard and the acceptance speech by Dr Corinne M. Flick:
Laudatory Speech by Prof. Jörn Leonhard
This evening above all I would like to talk about four special leitmotifs that characterize Corinne Flick. They have made Convoco what it is today. But they go far beyond that: they are indispensable conditions for understanding and tolerance. And they have a paradigmatic significance for all of us in these alarming times.
First and foremost, there is a strong awareness of the very special value of freedom: as a condition for understanding and tolerance, as an island of reflection, as the basis of a second, differentiating look, of disinterested interest, of the diversity of perspectives, as the foundation of every exchange, for civilized coexistence itself. It is no accident that Corinne Flick repeatedly reminds the Convoco participants of the threats to freedom, for example, when recourse to equality creates a tyranny of the majority, a tyranny that can threaten freedom.
Freedom cannot be delegated to institutions and processes. Checks and balances are important, but they can never replace individual behavior. And that’s why passivity makes freedom vulnerable. Liberal democracies do not collapse all at once. Rather, they die a slow death—through disinterest, withdrawal, a mindset of letting things happen and looking the other way, through individual aversion. The threat to freedom is an integral part of the momentous rupture in which we find ourselves. Like Russia’s criminal war of aggression against Ukraine, Hamas’s brutal terrorism perpetrated against Jews and every single act of anti-Semitism are an attack on the conditions of freedom in which we want to live.
The second leitmotif is Corinne Flick’s very own combination of empathy and determination. Her empathy is expressed in the form of curiosity, as a desire to understand something better, and as a salutary urge to get involved with her interlocutors. Resolute standpoints can only emerge from such a constellation. This link between empathy and resoluteness is also directly connected to our present situation. Empathy means the ability to put oneself in someone else’s shoes, to engage with their motives and experiences and, from this perspective, to acquire a productive distance from oneself—this is also a way of crossing frontiers. But what it means when people lose empathy has become apparent since October 7, 2023. The deafening silence and emotional coldness from both left and right in the face of terror and anti-Semitism are particularly shocking, because without this empathy both the credibility of individual and political action and trust are inconceivable.
Third, Corinne Flick, like Convoco, has her own special culture of communication that combines freedom with empathy. To this end, Convoco essentially demands a challenging obligation of all participants, to come together, to engage with each other, to think through a problem thoroughly, to face up to a difficult task without knowing the answer from the start. In other words, this means listening in the best sense of the word in order to allow our beliefs to be shaken up, meeting the other side on an equal footing, knowing and trusting that we can expect something from each other, not shying away from controversy and looking for better insights and solutions on this basis. Convoco proves that knowing a lot of things is different from being a know-all, and that the sum of knowledge is always more than the sum of one individual’s knowledge.
And fourth, Corinne Flick always succeeds in complementing the perspectives coming from the worlds of the law, politics, economics, and science with the world of art […] This a call to engage with art as a kind of thinking within the space of the aesthetically possible, to engage with the opportunity of acquiring better knowledge through a sense of wonder. This quality too is directly connected with our present moment, because art combines knowledge with consolation. For example, we might read Salman Rushdie’s important speech when he was awarded of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade. Today, more than ever, art is an urgent response to philistinism; it is a condensed expression of a civilized life, of thinking through nuances, transitions, countercurrents, and contradictions. Persuasive art can expose the barbarism in our crazy world more rapidly than almost anything else.
Today Corinne Flick is being honored for her extraordinary, innovative, and original commitment that is having an impact in so many ways. At the heart of this is her personality: her curiosity and perseverance, her steadfastness, her sense of responsibility to complete a task as well as possible once she has taken it on, her analytical focus, her unerring sense of quality, her outstanding ability to moderate and offer intelligent conviviality, to bring people together, to understand differences, and to cross frontiers.
Acceptance Speech by Dr Corinne M. Flick
What motivated me to launch this initiative?
First and foremost, my love
• of exchanging ideas
• of deep thinking
• of scholarship
• and especially my respect for Germany’s Basic Law.
As a lawyer, I was always impressed by the clarity of the German Constitution. It represents the basis of our lives lived in freedom. For me it is important to protect this value—living in freedom in every shape and form.
What can an individual do to ensure the preservation of liberal values?
The answer is:
• Take up a clear position.
• Be steadfast.
The primary aim is to
• focus on the call to freedom
• resist what is wrong
• be actively involved
• and demonstrate responsibility
and thus be a citizen of a liberal, democratic state.
That’s why I set up the Convoco Foundation. I wanted to make my contribution to a liberal system.
What was not clear was how important it would be in Germany one day to defend the liberal system. Today, ladies and gentlemen, it is probably the most urgent issue since the founding of the Federal Republic to stand up for freedom and democracy.
Because tolerance—which is what we are talking about this evening—can only be thought of in the context of freedom and democracy. Tolerance in itself is not a virtue. Tolerance only becomes a concept that is central to a pluralistic, democratic society in dialogue, and in combination, with civil liberties.
Let me explain this briefly. I am referring here to the philosopher Rainer Forst’s work on tolerance.
Tolerance has three elements:
- The first element is objection: I can only tolerate what I object to.
- The second is acceptance: There are reasons why what I object to should nevertheless be tolerated.
- The third element is rejection: The limits of tolerance can be found in reasons for rejection. The latter must be significantly stronger than the reasons for acceptance.
In other words: Human dignity and civil liberties justify accepting to tolerate what we object to.
Tolerance itself cannot tell us what should be tolerated. This only becomes apparent when considering values such as freedom, democracy, and justice.
We are all called to be conscious citizens. We have to get involved. A democratic, liberal life must be renegotiated every day. This is the crux of the matter. This is where I began my initiative—and have been doing so for twenty years.