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Standing United in an Unprecedented Time

We are at a very precarious moment in our history. The unconscionable killing of George Floyd almost two weeks ago has sparked the worst nationwide racial upheaval in 50 years. It has unleashed deep-rooted anger and pain over the longstanding racial injustice in our country. The current charged environment serves as a call to action. While the news has been dominated by reports about unacceptable violence instigated by a variety of actors, it is heartening to see so many people of different colors and faiths coming together (notwithstanding concerns about social distancing) to march peacefully for change, as well as police officers in some communities taking a knee with protesters in common cause. The civil rights crisis playing out in communities across the country is just...

As Temperatures Rise, European Politics Heat Up

At the end of June, a heat wave struck western and central Europe, setting new temperature records for June in Germany and the Czech Republic. While temperatures have since cooled somewhat, European and German politics show no signs of doing the same. After marathon negotiations, European leaders broke with the “Spitzenkandidat process” whereby European political parties appoint lead candidates for senior positions ahead of the European elections to choose a new slate of leaders. Meanwhile, Germany is experiencing tectonic shifts in its party landscape. Let me take these developments in turn: Following the European elections in late May and weeks of speculation about who would get Europe’s top jobs, last week European leaders nominated German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen as the next President of...

Redefining the Indispensable Relationship – by Dr. Steven E. Sokol

There is no doubt that the transatlantic relationship that has contributed to peace, stability, and prosperity for more than 70 years is at a critical juncture. The United States and Germany have numerous Knackpunkte – sticking points – which include defense spending by NATO member states, tariffs and trade, and climate change. There are also policy differences on how to bring stability to the Middle East, policy toward Russia, and energy – most notably regarding Nord Stream 2. There is a danger that these tensions can create fissures in the relationship, allowing strategic competitors like China and Russia to fill this vacuum. And with Germany and the United States both inwardly focused on a variety of issues, it is harder to address the common challenges in a constructive way. But, just because it...

What Can Dallas Learn from the Germans about Civic Engagement? – By Dr. Steven E. Sokol and Dr. Nina Smidt

In a period of increased polarization in domestic politics, fragmentation of society and social inequity, efforts to adapt and grow to meet myriad challenges of the 21st century should begin at the local level. Germany and the United States face many of the same domestic challenges, and local communities in both countries can learn from each other's approaches to these issues. Most Americans and Germans enjoy an unprecedented standard of living. Nevertheless, many people in both countries believe something is wrong, regardless of income level. Many Germans and Americans feel left behind even though economic indices are generally positive in both countries. This impression is having a serious impact on our societies and cannot simply be reduced to economic angst. There is a sense that our social fabric...

Relations with Germany matter for a healthy Idaho future – by Ricklef Beutin and Steven E Sokol

Idaho’s relationship with Germany began when Germans first arrived to the Idaho Territory as miners, assayers, farmers, brewers and bakers in the 1860s. Thereafter, German immigrants continued to settle in Idaho, bringing with them brass bands, Oktoberfest and the Feast of St. Nicholas. These traditions endure. It is estimated that one-fifth of all Idahoans have German ancestry, making them the state’s second-largest ethnic group. Thus, it stands to reason that town hall meetings to discuss the significance and future of this critical transatlantic relationship have landed in Boise. Today, Germany and the United States maintain a range of partnerships in all areas of society — business and industry, foreign and defense policy, science and academia. Much of the cooperation occurs with little fanfare or visibility...
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