At a time when the transatlantic relationship has taken a rather tempestuous turn, the future of German and European Studies seems uncertain to many. Yet we are comforted by the fact that the BMW Center continues to attract bright young people, who are flocking to the Center and committing themselves to regional studies. High-profile speakers are keen to use the Center as a stage to reflect on the longevity and prospects of the transatlantic alliance. I am acutely aware how much the public and private sectors, foundations, and non-profits depend on us for people who can face the future with knowledge and creativity. As our societies are undergoing rapid technological, social, and economic change, we very much need the kind of deep understanding of Europe that is cultivated at the BMW Center. In sum, the everyday work of imagining, creating, and nurturing a shared world continues both in Europe and the United States. Our bridging of academic training with practical skills, and of classroom teaching with informal mentoring by faculty and alumni, I am sure, will empower our students to meet the challenges ahead.
As we celebrate the Centennial of the founding of the Walsh School of Foreign Service, the Center takes the long view of transatlantic relations. I see the tremendous benefits that have come from moments of conflict: President Wilson’s internationalism was key to the dismantling of German empire, and the democratization of Germany after WWII would have been impossible without American assistance. As a cultural scholar, I especially appreciate the emergence of a vibrant popular culture in that context, which energized and often politicized young people and contributed to the great democratic transformations of the 1960s. Conversely, the American occupation also opened the door to the desegregation of the U.S. army and dismantling of Jim Crow. Europe’s efforts to bind nationalist fervor and supremacist thinking after the Holocaust have boosted skepticism of nationalist myths and social exclusion elsewhere. As these sentiments are on the rise again on both sides of the Atlantic, it is all the more important to recover the cosmopolitan impulses that sustain solidarity across social boundaries and national borders.
In closing I want to thank the Center’s very capable and fun-loving staff, my colleagues in the Master’s Program of German and European Studies, as well as alumni and students, for making the Center such an inspiring community.
Graf Goltz Professor and Director
BMW Center for German and European Studies
Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University