Angela Merkel Jabs Trump in Harvard Commencement Speech

Speaking at Harvard University, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's advice to graduates to "tear down walls" wasn't her only subtle swipe at President Donald Trump.

Merkel Takes a Swipe at Trump in Harvard Commencement

German Chancellor Angela Merkel took some subtle shots at President Trump during her higher education commencement speech at Harvard University. The line in her speech — evoking President Ronald Reagan's "tear down this wall" speech — was cheered with a standing ovation among the Harvard graduates, faculty and others who watched the university's 368th commencement from Harvard Yard.

Merkel, the chancellor of Germany since 2005, didn’t mention the president by name, but he was the clear target with her central theme being breaking down "walls." One of Trump's defining policy proposals is a border wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

She rebuked the current administration mostly on foreign policy. Trump has defied the traditional Western alliance that first emerged following World War II by questioning America's role in the North Atlantic Trade Organization. He's said NATO has benefited Europe more than the U.S. Merkel slammed Trump's approach to trade as well, telling the crowd, "Protectionism and trade conflicts jeopardize free international trade and thus the very foundations of our prosperity.” Trump has engaged in trade wars by increasing tariffs on exports from China and threatening to do the same with Mexico.

In other digs at Trump, the chancellor warned against acting on "first impulses" in politics and to value honesty. The focus on "walls" began at the beginning of her speech when Merkel traced her upbringing in Communist-controlled East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, which she grew up near. She said the people in 1989 brought it down – something she once thought was not possible. She told Harvard's graduating class of 2019 to never take freedom or individual liberties for granted and to prioritize people and human dignity as technology advances.