I just wanted to post a quick thank you to everybody who congratulated me on the German Medal of Merit, I truly appreciated it.
To get the facts straight: the Medal of Merit is the lowest class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, unofficially but commonly described as Federal Cross of Merit. The medal does indeed feature a big cross, so the familiar name fits well. In order to get the next class – the Cross of Merit – you will typically have to be at least 40 years old, so this is a good as it gets and it does feel very satisfying indeed.
Let me explain the satisfying part: In Germany, the medal of merit is a state decoration which you receive for merits for the common welfare. It’s granted and signed by the President of Germany, at present Horst Köhler, In other words, this is yet another sign that we, the free software community, the hackers, the geeks, have arrived at what’s called the middle of society. What a change from the beginnings of KDE!
For those that do not rememember, it has taken a long time for free software to be seen as valuable outside our closed circle of hackers. Initially it was even seen as something bad, as some evil movement to harm companies and to kill jobs. When I started with free software I met either indifference, or more frequently malice and total lack of understanding. How can anybody in their right mind waste valuable time with this? For example, I do remember a situation where a fellow student of mine wanted to help me out when he learned that I spent all nights programming a document processor. His solution, in all honesty and seriousness, was to offer me a pirated copy of a commercial word processor.
And now this. Official recognition by the President of Germany. Should anybody wonder why you spend time with free software, let them know that in Germany this is officially recognized as work for the common welfare – isn’t that plain brilliant?
Obviously it’s not the freedom aspect per se that makes our software relevant for the common welfare. A free ego-shooter, while fun to work on, might for example not fall into this category. What makes all the difference is what we strive to achieve with KDE – and with the free desktop in general: a complete system for normal users, everything you need to participate in our modern communication society.
Society in Germany is starting to recognise this value. So I have been lucky enough to be selected as a representative for you all. All of you that strive to broaden the use of free software for everybody. It was both a day for me to proudly look back on what I have achieved with you, and for all of us as a community to be proud of what we achieve together. Whether you are a direct contributor, a supporter or a user of free software, be it KDE, Gnome or the underlying distributions, this award was just as much for you. I hope you are as proud as I am. You should be.
Thanks again, and keep on hacking.