George F. Kennan Commentary Award

Since May 2001 the German-American Commmentary Award is presented by the Board of Trustees of the Burns Fellowship Program. This award is open to all journalists who have published a piece of commmentary on transatlantic or German-American relations during the previous calendar year in a German publication. 

Since 2005, the German-American Commentary Award has been renamed in honor of former diplomat and author George F. Kennan.

The jury for the award is composed of trustees, former award winners and journalists: Barbara Junge (Tageszeitung), Elisabeth Niejahr (Wirtschaftswoche), Claus Strunz (Axel Springer), Stefan Kornelius (Süddeutsche Zeitung), Michael Bröcker (Rheinische Post), Gordon Repinski (RND), and Frank-Dieter Freiling (ZDF).

Award winners are:

  • Marie-Astrid Langer (2018)
  • Hubert Wetzel (2017)
  • Ansgar Graw (2016)
  • Nikolas Richter (2015)
  • Uwe Schmitt (2014)
  • Eric T. Hansen (2013)
  • Martin Klingst (2012)
  • Prof. Dr. Hans-Dieter Gelfert (2011)
  • Christian Wernicke (2010)
  • Roger Cohen (2009)
  • Niklas Maak (2008)
  • Jacob Heilbrunn (2007)
  • Dr. Joseph Joffe (2006)
  • Andreas Geldner (2005)
  • Matthias Rüb (2004)
  • Stefan Kornelius and Clemens Wergin (2003)
  • Robert von Rimscha (2002)
  • Christoph von Marshall and Steven Erlanger (2001)
  • Roger Cohen (2000)

George F. Kennan Commentary-Award 2018

The 2018 George F. Kennan Award goes to the Neue Züricher Zeitung’s West Coast correspondent Marie-Astrid Langer (Burns 2015) for her commentary “Lady Liberty leidet" ('Lady Liberty Suffers'), published on January 20, 2018. When Donald Trump took office, many opponents referred to the strength of U.S. institutions that would tame the anti-democratic president with the political reality of checks and balances. Disappointment soon followed as Trump tirelessly ground down the institutions, rather than the other way around. However, Langer developed a counter-thesis. She believes the checks and balances did have their intended effect. On the one hand, the economy is flourishing and is thus holding Donald Trump’s madness in its place. On the other hand, civil society has awoken from its slumber after the election of Barack Obama and has become reengaged.

George F. Kennan Commentary-Award 2017

In 2017, the George F. Kennan Award was awarded to Hubert Wetzel, U.S. correspondent at Süddeutsche Zeitung, for his commentary “Die Neue Pest" ('The new plague'), published on August 4, 2017. Wetzel, who has researched the rampant heroin epidemic in the U.S. for years, illuminated in his commentary a social problem that reveals a lot about the state of American society as well as the political climate in the country. Last but not least, it was the feeling of exclusion that led large groups of people from the weakest social strata to vote for Donald Trump.

George F. Kennan Commentary-Award 2016

The 2016 George F. Kennan Award goes to Ansgar Graw, a long-time U.S. correspondent of Die Welt, for his commentary "Warum sah ich seinen Sieg nicht kommen?”, published on November 12, 2016 in Die Welt. Graw describes in excellent prose how he did not foresee Donald Trump's election victory, and even considered it impossible. In a conversation with his plumber, who criticizes him for this, Graw masterfully explains the formation of his former position and simultaneously reevaluates this opinion. He addresses his plumber and his readers neither with aggrieved defensiveness nor the rhetoric of a know-it-all. His commentary rises with greater understanding and self-reflection. At a time when journalism is exposed to harsh criticism, this is both courageous and valuable: self-doubt as an act of liberation!

George F. Kennan Commentary-Award 2015

This annual award is presented by the board of trustees of the Internationale Journalisten-Programme and is given to a journalist who published a remarkable commentary related to the transatlantic relationship or the United States in a German publication last year. The winner receives a certificate and a 2,000 Euro prize.

This year, the Kennan Award went to longtime correspondent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung Nicolas Richter for his commentary "Trumps Ernte [Trump's Harvest]," published on Sept. 10, 2015. In his article, Richter provides an urgent early warning of the populist force and power of persuasion of Donald Trump. He analyzed the degree of destruction to the Republican Party and how a person like Trump can be the mouthpiece for many Americans to vent their anger. He argues that Trump, who is basically an apolitical businessman, capitalized on the nihilistic tendency of this voter bloc and began an uprising of these angry citizens. Richter sets the tone for many subsequent analyses of this surprising political phenomenon in the United States. Clear in his language and precise in his reasoning, Richter analyzed the political and societal changes in the United States through many articles that he wrote in his final summer as the Washington correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung.



George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2013

The George F. Kennan Commentary Award is given annually to a journalist who has published a commentary in a German publication during the past calendar year. The content of the commentary must be a remarkable exploration of issues concerning the United States or the transatlantic relationship. The award includes a 2,000-Euro check.

The jury awarded the 2013 prize to Eric T. Hansen, an American who has lived in and reported from Germany for the past 25 years. In “Wider die transatlantische Amnesie (Against transatlantic amnesia),” published in Neue Zürcher Zeitung on October 7, 2013, Hansen impressively describes how Europe covers up its own weakness in world politics with Schadenfreude over the loss of power in Washington. Hansen thinks Europe thus missed a unique opportunity: Instead of speaking with one voice internationally and instead of setting moral standards in global crises, the debate is side-tracked by fault-finding partner USA, a partner who was instrumental for managing crises on the continent for the past century. “Europe has probably only about ten years, maybe less, to take advantage of the current weakness of America,” Hansen wrote.

The jury for both awards was composed of trustees, former award winners and journalists Sabine Christiansen, Dr. Christoph von Marschall (Tagesspiegel), Claus Strunz (Axel Springer), Stefan Kornelius (Süddeutsche Zeitung) and Gordon Repinski (Der Spiegel), as well as Dr. Frank-Dieter Freiling (ZDF).

George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2011

Aaron Wiener, Gordon Repinski, Prof. Hans-Dieter Gelfert
Aaron Wiener, Gordon Repinski, Prof. Hans-Dieter Gelfert

The jury awarded the 2011 prize to Hans-Dieter Gelfert, a professor emeritus for English literature at Free University Berlin, for his commentary 'Die widersprüchlichen USA - Zwischen Religion und Aufklärung, zwischen Tea Party und Occupy Wall Street: Warum die Amerikaner so sind, wie sie sind (The contradictory USA - Between religion and enlightenment, between Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street: Why Americans are as they are).' The article was published on November 6, 2011. The author pieces together various facts about the mentality of Americans to elucidate why they behave the way they do on certain issues. He conveys a real depth of understanding that has a powerful impact on readers. If it is true that we are in danger of being 'over-newsed but under-informed,' then Gelfert's analysis serves as an excellent antidote. His article becomes a strong plea for the value of journalism in the digital Twitter age.

The jury for the George F. Kennan Award 2011 was composed of journalists Sabine Christiansen, Dr. Christoph von Marschall (Tagesspiegel), Claus Strunz (Axel Springer), Stefan Kornelius (Süddeutsche Zeitung) and Dr. Dominik Wichmann (Stern), as well as Dr. Frank-Dieter Freiling (ZDF) and Petra Stoeckl (Foreign Ministry of Germany).

George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2010

The 2010 Burns and Kennan Award winners covered a broad range of topics - from the tragic suicide of an Iraq war veteran, to the homeschooling of German children, to the U.S. Congressional elections of 2010.

The 2,000-Euro George F. Kennan Commentary Award went to Christian Wernicke, U.S. correspondent for the Süddeutsche Zeitung, for his article called 'Der blutleere Präsident (The bloodless President),' published on November 2, 2010. With more than five years of experience writing about U.S. politics and how it is perceived in Germany, Wernicke produced an insightful analysis of the U.S. Congressional election on November 2, 2010. He focused on the lack of understanding in Germany for why Obama, who enjoys an almost heroic status in much of Europe, suffered such a severe defeat in his own nation. He refutes common German clichés about declining U.S. support for Obama, and instead counters with a perceptive analysis of the U.S. political atmosphere in the aftermath of the financial crisis. He writes that 'what Obama enacts as modernization, appears to many as a break with the system. And as un-American.' However, he concludes that if Obama learns his lesson from the mid-term election defeat, he can reemerge as a hero - for both Europeans and Americans.

The jury was comprised of journalists Sabine Christiansen (TV21 Media), Dr. Christoph von Marschall (Tagesspiegel), Claus Strunz (Hamburger Abendblatt), and Dr. Dominik Wichmann (Stern), as well as Dr. Frank-Dieter Freiling (ZDF) and Petra Stoeckl (Foreign Ministry of Germany).

Christian Wernicke: Der blutleere Präsident (The bloodless President), Süddeutsche Zeitung, published on November 2, 2010 (.pdf, 3,0 MB)

Burns and Kennan jury member Claus Strunz (left) introducing the 2010 award winners together with State Secretary Peter Ammon, Germany´s next ambassador to the United States.
Burns and Kennan jury member Claus Strunz (left) introducing the 2010 award winners together with State Secretary Peter Ammon, Germany´s next ambassador to the United States.
Award winners Cordula Meyer of Der Spiegel and Christian Wernicke of Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Award winners Cordula Meyer of Der Spiegel and Christian Wernicke of Süddeutsche Zeitung.

George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2009

The 2,000-Euro George F. Kennan Commentary Award went to Roger Cohen, a Berlin correspondent for The New York Times and a columnist for the International Herald Tribune, for his analysis of 'German Angst (German fear),' published on March 20, 2009, in the magazine of Süddeutsche Zeitung. Cohen's analysis of the changing transatlantic relationship mirrors the changes in the U.S.-coined term 'German Angst.' Cohen, who won the Kennan Commentary Award in 2000, describes a change in the German mentality in convincing and surprisingly entertaining language.

The jury for both awards, the Arthur F. Burns Prize as well as the George F. Kennan Commentary Award, was comprised of journalists Sabine Christiansen, Dr. Christoph von Marschall (Tagesspiegel), Claus Strunz (Hamburger Abendblatt), Florian Illies (Die Zeit/Monopol) and Dr. Dominik Wichmann (Süddeutsche Zeitung), as well as Dr. Frank-Dieter Freiling (ZDF) and Petra Stoeckl (Foreign Ministry of Germany).

Roger Cohen: German Angst, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin, Heft 12/2009 (.pdf, 2,0 MB)

George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2008

The 2008 Kennan Award winner focuses on the hopes of the African-American civil rights movement with Barack Obama's historic election; on Germany's struggle with releasing Stasi police secrets; and on an American identity crisis displayed in its new embassy building in Berlin.

The 2,000-Euro George F. Kennan Commentary Award went to Niklas Maak, Berlin correspondent for Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, for his story "Die Botschaft der Botschaft (The Message of the Embassy)," published on April 20, 2008. In a year with no lack of commentary about the outgoing and incoming U.S. president, Maak managed to describe an American identity crisis in his unusual architectural critique of the new U.S. embassy in Berlin. "If a house could stand with crossed arms, this is what it would look like," Maak wrote of the new fortress-style building at Pariser Platz in Berlin Mitte. "The embassy is the picture of a country traumatized by 9/11 and the effects of globalization; a nation that is so armored up, it can no longer see the world."

The jury also gave an honorary mention to Süddeutsche Zeitung correspondent Nikolaus Piper for his commentary piece "Wendejahr 2008 (Year of Change 2008)," published on December 31, 2008. The jury credited Piper's work for its outstanding analysis and foresight, as he tied economic politics to world politics.

George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2007

The George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2007 goes to US-journalist Jacob Heilbrunn, White House correspondent of National Interest and Burns Fellow 1994, for his article 'Ami, go home' (Ami: german, short for 'American(s)') that was published in Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin (the weekly supplement to Süddeutsche Zeitung) on 7th December 2007. The jury recognized the outstanding analytical quality of Heilbrunn's commentary that succeeds in giving a clear-headed and complex insight into the particularities of the US election campaign. Heilbrunn reveals how George W. Bush and his unsuccessful policy have actually inspired the rebirth of American Liberalism, a political ideology that had largely been discredited. Heilbrunn supports this thesis by comparing George W. Bush to his former rival for US presidency Al Gore: Whereas Bush has lost popular support step by the step over the last four years, Al Gore's political reputation has constantly improved during the same time. Examples like these confer a fresh and persuasive character to Heilbrunn's analytical commentary that is enhanced by his clear and forthright language. By this means, the author distinguishes himself from the average journalistic discourse and gives surprisingly new perspectives on the political situation in the United States one year before the upcoming presidential elections.

Further, the jury points out the contribution of illustrator Christoph Niemann. His sharp and witty illustrations, which portray the successive years of the Bush era, have an integral part in the appealing presentation of the commentary.

Download (in German language):

"Ami go Home" (.pdf), Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazin on 7th December 2007.

George F. Kennan Commentary Award 2006

Dr. Josef Joffe, publisher, Die Zeit, won the George F. Kennan Commentary Award for his article "Nach dem Fiasko" ("After the Fiasco") which was published on March 9, 2006. Joffe wrote about the US American policy in Iraq.

George F. Kennan Commemtary Award 2005

Andreas Geldner, editor, Stuttgarter Zeitung, won the George F. Kennan Commentary Award for his article "Wir befinden uns in Preussisch-USA - Deutschlands missverstandene Amerikanisierung" ("We are in Prussian-USA - Germany's misunderstood americanization") which was published on May 14, 2005.

Thomas Spang, correspondent in the USA for several regional newspapers, received an honorable mention for his four-part article series "Grenzen der Macht" ("Borders of Power"), published in the "Saarbrücker Zeitung".

Commentary Award 2004

The 1,000 Euro German-American Commentary Award went to Matthias Rüb for 'Kulturkampf in Amerika" ("Culture War in America"), published November 4, 2004 in Frankfurter Allgemeinen Zeitung. As the paper's Washington correspondent, Rüb points to the cultural divide across the American geographic landscape as the main reason for President Bush's reelection. However, he further wrote in a convincing fashion that this societal heterogeneity was nothing new in the United States and that Europeans ringing the alarm bells would neglect to consider this American political tradition.

Nils Minkmar received an honorable mention for his articles in the Frankfurter Allgemeinen Sonntagszeitung, in which he explained cultural conditions and their influence on political actions. Minkmar points out connections between popular culture and the building of a new Left in the United States. He also managed to explain abstract concepts such as anti-Americanism.

Previous Award Winners