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The Federal President as patron

In agreeing to become a patron, the Federal President as head of state is expressing the state's special interest in a particular organization, event or initiative and highlighting its importance.
The Federal President can only become a patron if the relevant organization or event has a beneficial impact on the whole country and stands on a secure legal, administrative and financial footing.
By reason of his constitutional position, the Federal President will normally be the sole patron of an organization or event. Only in conjunction with another head of state can he be a joint patron. The decision to become a patron is always the personal decision of the Federal President and valid only for his own term of office. He is in no way bound by his predecessors' decisions, nor can he influence the decisions of his successors in this respect.

The Ordre Pour le mérite for Sciences and the Arts

The Ordre Pour le mérite for Sciences and the Arts was instituted by King Frederick William IV of Prussia in 1842 to honour services to science and the arts.
The first Chancellor of the Order was Alexander von Humboldt. The adoption of the 1919 Weimar constitution abolishing all orders and decorations threatened the Order's existence. Under its Chancellor Adolf von Harnack the Order in 1922 reconstituted itself by decision of its Chapter as a "free association of outstanding scholars and artists", a decision approved by Prussia in 1924.
In 1952 at the initiative of Theodor Heuss the Order was once again reconstituted as a free self-renewing community under the protection of the Federal President.

Statutes and structure

The task the Order has set itself is not to pursue some common scientific or artistic goal but to elect from among distinguished scientists and artists "whose work has earned them an outstanding reputation" those who, in the spirit and tradition of the Order, are worthy of such a high honour.
The Chapter of the Order may not exceed 40 (German) members elected for life and drawn equally from the humanities, science and the fine arts. Following the death of a member, a new member is elected. At the end of the Second World War there were only three surviving members of the Order, as no elections were held during the period of National Socialism.
Also foreign nationals may be elected to the Order, although their number should not exceed that of the German members.
Members of the Order have included such outstanding figures as Professor Golo Mann, Professor Theodor Eschenburg, Professor Emil Schuhmacher and Andrzej Szczypiorski.