Many ethnic-American associations and clubs seem to be heading down the road to oblivion. Of course, from our point of view, any marginalization of German-American groups is especially distressing. This makes support of the few "lighthouse projects" with a truly promising future all the more important and worthwhile. These institutions embrace a modern approach to preserving German-American history, while at the same time stressing the importance of a close relationship and heightened cooperation between twenty-first century Germany and the United States. Included among these beacons of German-American historical preservation and cultural interaction are the German-American Heritage Museum in Washington, DC; the German American Heritage Center in Davenport, Iowa; and Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa.
One doesn't need to look very hard to find evidence of the atrophy of German-American clubs and organizations. Over the past several decades, the immigrant contributions of forefathers have become less identifiable and more diluted in the great American melting pot. In part, this is understandable given both the growth and aging of the general population. Nevertheless, this disturbing trend is reversible. The key, of course, is education. Newer generations must be educated as to the remarkable cultural contributions of their forebears and how those precious gifts helped mold them and the country they call home. This all-important knowledge must be presented in a modern, appealing, and relevant way.
A growing number of German political and opinion leaders have observed the emasculation of German-American clubs and associations. They worry that the traditionally close transatlantic ties based on our common roots are loosening. Those roots may be deep, but they still require nourishment. That is why forward-thinking institutions like Wartburg College — a college that is working to resurrect the contributions of important immigrant groups like the Forty-Eighters from the dustbin of history — deserve our continued support.
Our German-American highlight of 2011 involved Erik Bettermann, CEO of Deutsche Welle, the large German international broadcaster. I had the pleasure of meeting with Erik in New York City where he served as the Grand Marshal of the huge Steuben Parade (organized by talented event manager Lars Halter). We then took Erik to Wartburg College where he enjoyed a three-day visit to America's heartland while exploring new avenues of German-American cooperation.
Another highlight was our opportunity of attending the Minnesota wedding of Matt Richter, the son of our good friends Christel and Stephan Richter of Glücksburg, Schleswig-Holstein. Stephan's moving toast (please see attachment) is emblematic of all the wonderful things that can result from German-American interaction.
A few days ago, we had the great pleasure of accepting two exciting invitations. On December 21, we will attend an event at the residence of Marliese Heimann-Ammon, the charming spouse of Germany's new Ambassador to the United States. During this dinner, the president of the World Bank will be honored with the German-American of the Year Award. After these festivities, we'll enjoy a visit with retired physician Claus-Peter Koelln (who grew up in the Elmshorn area of Schleswig-Holstein) at beautiful St. Simons Island in Georgia.
The holiday season is a time of reflection, a time to be thankful for all of our blessings and friends. This past year, we were sad to see the passing of Jens Voss, a man who single-handedly did more to promote German-American goodwill than any other. Please see the attached obituary and raise a collective toast to a man who did so much to foster German-American friendship.
We hope this greeting finds all of you in excellent health, high spirits, and filled with all the cheer of the holiday season.