On Wednesday, March 26, Wheaton hosted Rolf Schütte, the German Consul General for the New England States, to discuss the growing role of Germany in both the European Union, as well as the international community.
The event had to be relocated to the Holman Room in Mary Lyon after the May Room reached well beyond capacity. Even after moving, the Holman Room was occupied almost to the limit, suggesting the German culture and language is not only on the rise around the world, but within the Wheaton community as well.
After dining with President Crutcher, Schütte spent the majority of his talk defining how Germany fit in with the rest of the world. There has been a call for Germany to step up in European and international relations, but Schütte noted Germany is hesitant to accept such a role. “In Germany, there is always a reflection of the past, and the past is the Nazi years.” explained Schütte. “Germany is still coming to terms with that past, saying that we shall never again be in that role.”
Schütte also discussed the relationship between Germany and The United States, recently strained by revelations of the NSA’s questionable activity surrounding German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“For many people in Germany this was a big shock,” said Schütte. “It is quite a burden on this transatlantic relationship.” Ironically, however, the recent controversy stirred up by Russian Vladimir Putin has helped mend the two nation’s relationship. “We share the same values,” continued Schütte. “Putin has managed, as a side effect, to get the transatlantic relationship on track.”
Schütte did not pass up the opportunity to poke fun at America while comparing the two nation’s economies, joking, “American’s live on consumption, we live on exports.”
Schütte also pointed out that while it may be difficult to stand out from the large crowd of Spanish or Chinese speakers, a fluent German speaker is unique. In United States colleges and universities, German is the third most learned foreign language, behind only Spanish and French. With Germany’s role in the world increasing, the spread of German language will become even more important.
German Studies major Casey Soares ‘17 reflected on the success of the event, saying, “It was great to see so many people there and interested, and it was an awesome opportunity to meet an important German figure.”
After his talk, Schütte participated in a question and answer period along with the large audience, and then it was on to a reception where students could have some individual conversations with the Consul General.
“I think we’re living in a time of global change, emerging societies, and evolving political powers,” stated Schütte. Based on his discussion, it’s clear that Germany will have a significant part to play in developments around the world.