Program Archive 2007

Tour Summary 2007

Hesitantly the hand stretches out into complete darkness. Inadvertently, it touches another participant, who also fumbles around helplessly. We have just crossed a simulated crossroads in the dark. The instructions of our blind guide show us the way. Will we finally succeed in getting a drink at the bar in the dark, paying with our real money? The self-discovery trip was called ‘Dialogue in the Dark’, and was a part of the 2007 Study Tour ‘Canada Meets Germany – A Forum for Young Leaders’ (CMG). The program is organized by the institute for cultural diplomacy, an international, independent, and non-profit organization founded and directed by American-Berliner Mark Donfried.

While Germany maintains close relationships with its European neighbors, for many Germans, Canada is relatively unknown. The same applies to the world’s second largest territorial state: Germans indeed constitute a large immigrant group, but many young Canadians have become acquainted with modern-day Germany simply through stories. Within the scope of CMG, twelve young leaders from Canada and Germany, employed in the political, economic, scientific, media and cultural sectors, find out more about the other country and its inhabitants. To this end, two week-long study tours take place in both countries. While Halifax, Montreal and Quebec City were featured on the calendar last year, the destination of the 2007 tour included Frankfurt/Main, Essen and Berlin.

In well-organized intercultural events of any kind, becoming acquainted with one another is a first priority. This kind of team-building takes place at CMG in such a way that society may benefit from it as well. With this in mind, we organized a BBQ-buffet at Weser5, the Frankfurter daytime meeting place for the homeless/daytime homeless shelter. Afterwards, the “Dialogue in the Dark”, as described above, took place in the Frankfurter Dialogmuseum. Further highlights included visits to the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW Banking Group) at Frankfurt’s West End and to Opel in Rüsselsheim, where we were able to hold an exceedingly open and interesting conversation with the Head of Marketing, Alain Visser. The trip continued on to Essen in our sponsored Opel ‘Vivaro’ vans.

“What do you do, if the means of existence for 5.2 million people is destroyed?” Our guide at the ‘Zeche Zollverein’ (coal-mine tariff union), Mr Reinhard, looks at us questioningly. Today, coal belongs only to the historical heritage, albeit now as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the future takes place, inter alia, inside a white cube. There, the Zollverein School of Management and Design has just released its second graduating class into the professional world. We listened to a fascinating lecture on the topic of ‘Identity’, given by Prof. Claudia Nicolai and Prof. Carl Frech. After a further visit to the WAZ Media Group, who had provided the financial support for our group’s stay in Essen, we continued to Berlin, where the next company visit was planned. We visited Bombardier Transportation, the Canadian manufacturer that produces trains for all of Europe, which employs more people than robots, in contrast to Opel. Following that, there was something for the heart at the Deutsche Welle where the Canadian-German Karin Helmstaedt chatted about her life. Once a world-class swimmer, she made a name for herself as a journalist, when she revealed the previously unknown extent of child doping in the former GDR.

Following that, we met the district mayor of Neukölln, Heinz Buschkowsky. This district, in which foreign inhabitants make up a good third of the inhabitants, when viewed from above – from the Neukölln city hall tower – looks very different from the way it is usually portrayed in the German media (keyword ‘Rütli-Schule’ in the film ‘Knallhart!’). The mayor outlined his strategy succinctly: “Education is the key to get ahead and to obtain a fitting career.” For the next morning a tour of the must-see Bundestag was organised by CMG alumnus Torge Hamkens. This is a typical attribute of CMG, namely that alumni remain highly involved in the program and play an active role. After the tour, we held a question-and-answer session with the youngest member of the Bundestag, Anna Lührmann (Green party). She is one of the initiators of a planned amendment to the Constitution (Generational Justice into the Constitution), that should establish generational justice and sustainability as national objectives in the Constitution. As a further highlight we were invited to the Canadian Embassy in Berlin on the penultimate day. The counsellor for political affairs, Ian Shaw, showed us the festive reception room, with a broad view of Berlin. “Set yourself a goal. Try to be officially invited to this room within the next three years,” he joked. “We will, Mr. Shaw!”All in all it was an exceptionally compact and varied week that brought me a step forward professionally as well as personally.

Jörg Tremmel, YL 2006