The Daily Demarche
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Recommended Reading from Germany.
We received a good number of e-mails while we were on hiatus, with lots of good links and stories to cover. Most of them rapidly became "OBE" or "overcome by events" in the quaint jargon of the Foreign Service (maybe other organizations use that term too, but I never heard it before arriving at State) meaning others covered them while we were off the air. One e-mail in particular, though, caught my attention.

Three German bloggers contacted us in regards to their blog- The Atlantic Review. Now, there are many, many blogs out there, more than I could ever hope to find and read. This one stands out because it is not only well done, but because it is the product of three German Fulbright Scholars. The Department of State describes the Fulbright program in short as:

The flagship international educational program sponsored by the United States Government, the Fulbright Program is designed to "increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries..." With this goal, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 250,000 participants- chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential- with the opportunity to study and teach in each other's countries, exchange ideas, and develop joint solutions to address shared concerns.

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by former Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. Since its inception more than fifty years ago 255,000 "Fulbrighters," 96,400 from the United States and 158,600 from other countries, have participated in the Program. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 4,500 new grants annually.

I don't want to belittle the work done by American Fulbrighters who have ventured off into the world, but for my money the most bang for the buck comes from the folks who spend time in America. Many times I have had folks say to me, while I have been posted abroad, "You are not a typical American, you we like, but America, well let me tell you what is wrong with America..." These are usually well educated and traveled folks. Many have been to America- to Disney, to Vegas, to the Big Apple, you know- AMERICA. The Fulbright Scholars, on the other hand, have had the chance to live, study and work in America. In some cases they may have simply reinforced stereotypes they already had about us- after all most stereotypes have at least a tiny kernel of truth to them. But many of the alumni of the program have also ghad the chance to look behind the curtain, and to see us as people, not simply an amorphous ideology railed against on the local news.

That is where the trio at the Review comes in- here is a bit about them in their own words, greatly excerpted:

The Atlantic Review recommends commentaries, analyses and reports on the United States and transatlantic relations and is edited by three German Fulbright Alumni: Jörg Wolf (Berlin), Sonja Bonin (Seattle) and Jörg Geier (Hamburg). We founded this private, independent, non-commercial project with Scott Brunstetter (Washington DC) in July 2003 out of a concern for the deterioration of the US-German relationship. We have sent this digest to a German and an international Fulbright mailing list twice a month ever since.

We hope to contribute to mutual understanding by summarizing in a nonpartisan way interesting press articles from respected sources and different points of view published on both sides of the Atlantic and freely available on the internet.

[snip]

...we believe that our website contributes to mutual understanding by informing our German readers of ongoing debates in the US that are not sufficiently covered in the German media and vice versa. The information in the Atlantic Review can help our readers not only to stay well informed about German, EU- and US foreign policies and transatlantic relations, but also to confront anti-American sentiments in Germany as well as Anti-German/Anti-European sentiments in the US. The Atlantic Review lays the ground for deeper understanding and insightful discussion.

[snip]

As former Fulbright grantees, who have had the privilege to participate in and appreciate the culture and way of life on the respective other side of the Atlantic, and in accordance with the Fulbright spirit, we believe it is our joyful responsibility to continue our work as cultural ambassadors and to help improve our mutual, transatlantic friendship.

In my e-mail contacts with Jörg we have both agreed that disagreeing is key to growth and understanding- so be forewarned, I do not promise an echo-chamber at the Review. I hope that you will be challenged by what you read there, and that you will challenge back. When we stop learning from each other we are in real trouble, and this blog offers a great learning opportunity.
With German news leader Der Spiegel running stories like "How Emergency Management Failed New Orleans", "Was Katrina Colorblind?", "Katrina Reveals the Ugly Truth of a Divided City" and "The Downfall of New Orleans" all on the front page of their international web page it is more important than ever that we make use of every resource and every opportunity to seek common ground and understanding- neither side may convince the other, and indeed the writers at the Review are not seeking to convince anyone, they are simply presenting the information and a forum to discuss is.

I hope you take the time to check it out, and add it your regular reads. I don't think you will be disappointed.
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dé·marche 1) A course of action; a maneuver. 2) A diplomatic representation or protest 3) A statement or protest addressed by citizens to public authorities.

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