Nov 08, 2019
November 9, 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The images of people dancing and partying on the Wall on November 9, 1989 went around the world, as did the pictures that captured the gradual demolition of the Wall – until the barrier between East and West Berlin was no longer visible. However, our photo of the Berlin Wall is not a retrospective photomontage, but rather a pictorial Fulbright testimony from those stirring and turbulent days.
From the very beginning, Berlin – or rather: West Berlin at that time -- played an important role in the German-American Fulbright exchange. German grantees from West Berlin received Fulbright grants to the U.S., and US students, teachers and professors were awarded grants to pursue their academic projects in the divided city. Similarly, our annual Fulbright Berlin Seminar has always been an integral part of the German-American Fulbright exchange; it first convened US Fulbrighters in West Berlin in 1954 and in the following years became the cultural and personal highlight of any American Fulbrighter’s stay in Germany.
And that’s how a group of American Fulbrighters gathered at the Berlin Wall in those exciting November 1989 days and immortalized their Fulbright cohort with “Fulbright 89” graffiti. Fortunately, in the midst of all this excitement, then Fulbrighter Jonathan Dehn from Arizona State University (fittingly, a volcanologist) had the presence of mind to capture the Fulbright entry, which later got lost.
Looking back to 1989, Fulbright Germany is forever grateful to our American friends for their important contribution in shaping German history and for the way they supported us to achieve German reunification peacefully and in freedom on October 3, 1990.
Germany and the United States share a lot. “Turning nations into people,” the Fulbright program is about the continued dialogue between our two civil societies. Our traditional grant programs as well as the longstanding Berlin Seminar remain the vibrant core of our programs. Following Senator J. William Fulbright's guiding principle of mutual understanding through exchange, Fulbright Germany has been a staunch and successful supporter of the 2018-19 Year of German-American Friendship in the U.S. We developed new programs to explore common values and shared interests on both sides of the Atlantic and advance mutual understanding on issues with differing viewpoints. Through initiatives like “Meet a German,” our German-American Road Trip, the Science Slam in Arizona, or the study trip for Educational Experts and our brand new Seminar for Museum Curators and Educators – our Deutschlandjahr Initiatives have won us countless new friendships and networks in Germany and the U.S.
As Berlin is preparing for the 2019 celebration of the Fall of the Wall, another group of Fulbright grantees has gathered at the Berlin Wall. This time it is a group of German and American museum curators and educators posing in front of remnants of the Berlin Wall on display at the Newseum in Washington, DC. Fittingly, the mission of this museum is to increase public understanding of the importance of the five freedoms granted by the First Amendment of the US Constitution: freedom of religion, of speech, of press, of assembly and of petition.
“Turning nations into people” – the German-American Fulbright Program is looking forward to many future encounters across the Atlantic.