Johannes Rau (born January 16, 1931) has been the President of Germany since July 1, 1999.
Education and Work
He was born in Wuppertal-Barmen as the third of five children. His family was strongly Protestant. As a schoolboy Rau was active in the Confessing Church, a circle of the German Protestant Church which actively resisted national socialism.
Rau left school in 1949 and worked as a journalist and publisher, especially with the Protestant Youth Publishing House.
Rau was a member of the All-German People's Party, which was known for proposing German reunification, from 1952 until it was disbanded in 1957.
In 1958 he and his political mentor Gustav Heinemann joined the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), where he was active in the Wuppertal chapter. He served as deputy chairman of the SPD party of Wuppertal, and was elected later on to the City Council (1964-1978), where he served as chairman of the SPD Group (1964-1967) and later as Mayor (1969-1970).
In 1958 Rau was elected for the first time as member of the Landtag (state parliament) of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW). In 1967 he became chairman of the SPD faction in the Landtag, and in 1970 Minister of Science and Education in the cabinet of Minister President Heinz Kühn. He soon gained a reputation as a reformer. As part of the mass-education campaign of the 1970s, he founded five universities, each at different sites, in North Rhine-Westphalia and initated Germany's first distance learning university at Hagen (modelled on the "open university").
In 1977 Rau became Chairman of the North Rhine-Westphalia SPD, and in 1978 Minister President of the state, were he remained until 1998, with four successful elections for the SPD, which became strongest party in the Landtag each time and gained an absolute majority three times, in 1980, 1985, 1990 and finally 1995. From 1995 onwards, Rau lead a SPD-Greens coalition in NRW.
In 1986 Rau tried to become chancellor of Germany for the SPD, but couldn't win the elections against Helmut Kohl's Christian Democrats (CDU). In 1994 Rau tried for the first time to become Federal President, but lost to Roman Herzog.
In 1998 Rau stepped down from his positions as SPD Chairman and Minister President, and on May 23, 1999, was elected Federal President by the Federal Assembly of Germany to succeed Roman Herzog (CDU). On July 1, 2004 he will be succeeded by Horst Köhler.
Motto and Maxim
The maxim of Johannes Rau is "to reconcile, not divide".
As his personal motto he adopted the Confessing Church dictum "teneo, quia teneor" (I hold because I am held).
Prizes and Medals
Rau has been given nine honorary doctorates.
Johannes Rau is known as a practising Christian (and sometimes titled "Bruder Johannes" to ridicule his intense Christian position). He has held lay positions in the Protestant Church, and was a member of the Synod of the Protestant Church in the Rhineland.
He is married to Christina, born Delius (*1956), a political scientist, since 9 August 1982. Christina Rau is a granddaughter of her husband's mentor, Gustav Heinemann, former President of Germany. The couple have three children: Anna Christina, born 1983, Philip Immanuel, born 1985 and Laura Helene, born 1986.
Today Rau lives with his family in the federal capital Berlin, but they have kept a house in Wuppertal.