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Statesman who asks questions

``For my generation, what mattered was to build a healthy state from ruins, to secure freedom, and to increase prosperity,'' Richard von Weizs"acker, President of the Federal Republic of Germany, has said. ``But we cannot expect eternal gratitude from the following generation for what we built up. The young people of today are asking quite different questions.'' It is as an asker of questions - and a listener to answers - that von Weizs"acker has won broad respect as a forward-looking statesman, thinker, and head of state.

Now midway through his five-year term in the highly symbolic, politically neutral post described as ``guardian of the Constitution,'' he has formal responsibility for representing West Germany in international relations and, if necessary, convening or dissolving Parliament. He also has informal responsibility for advising, warning, encouraging, and mediating among his country's many political and social groups.

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Born in Stuttgart, he studied law and history at Oxford, Grenoble, and G"ottingen Universities before serving in an infantry regiment during World War II. After taking his law degree, he worked in industry until 1966, when he took a position with the Christian Democratic Party.

In 1969 he was elected to Parliament, rising to vice-president of the Bundestag, Parliament's lower house, in 1979 before taking up a three-year stint as mayor of Berlin in 1981. From 1969 until his election as President in 1984, he was a member of the governing council of the German Protestant Church. -30-{et

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