On April 16, a group of District and State Directors from the U.S. House and Senate visited American Space Leipzig to meet Leipzig students for a transatlantic roundtable. 10 District and State Directors as well as 15 students took part in the discussion.
The District and State Directors delegation visited Germany as part of the Congressional Study Group on Germany to deepen the German-American relationship. District and State Directors are senior staff members of the U.S. Congress & Senate, who typically do not have an exact counterpart within in the German Bundestag. Interesting parallels can be drawn, however, with how representatives in both countries deal with the everyday issues of constituents. The District Directors Study Tour provides an opportunity to build transatlantic relationships at the regional and local levels of government and civil society, beyond the political and financial capitals in Germany.
The bi-partisan study group brought 10 State and District Directors to Leipzig, representing the United States from all across the country. You can find the entire list of participants below.
In three different rounds of discussion and exchange, the event addressed current political and social issues across the Atlantic. First, in a roundtable discussion the participants exchanged thoughts and impressions they gathered from their visit across the Atlantic. In smaller breakout groups, students and the congressional delegation could then discuss particular topics in detail. The groups talked about transatlantic differences, such as in perceptions of the role of populism in democracy, in the relationship between a representative and their constituents in the U.S. and Germany, or how the vast differences in student tuitions influence life and career planning. While talking about such distinctions helps to strengthen a better understanding of the complexities of the transatlantic community, they are outweighed by the cultural and historical similarities across the Atlantic. At the end of the event, the participants exchanged concluding thoughts and business cards during the coffee and cake reception.
The roundtable showed that direct dialogue with young citizens of the transatlantic community fosters mutual understanding and appreciation. For the students it complicated static perceptions of partisan politics and created awareness of economic, social, and environment differences between particular states in the U.S. For the District and State Directors it opened new perspectives on the complexity of European and transatlantic identities as well as political cultures; it also created a deeper appreciation of differences and similarities across the Atlantic.
All in all, the event strengthened the transatlantic partnership.
2018 District Directors Study Tour Participants:
2. Mr. Tim Butler, District Director, Office of Rep. Mike Kelly (Republican, Pennsylvania)
3. Ms. Tuere Butler, District Director, Office of Rep. John Lewis (Democrat, Georgia)
4. Ms. Sarah Holmes, State Director, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (Democrat, New Hampshire
5. Ms. Kate Jennings, District Director, Rep. Cheri Bustos (Democrat, Illinois)
6. Mr. Mike Mathews, State Director, Sen. James E. Risch (Republican, Idaho)
7. Mr. Jason Ross, District Director, Rep. John Ratcliffe (Republican, Texas)
8. Ms. Brigid Smith, District Director, Rep. John P. Sarbanes (Democrat, Maryland)
9. Mr. Craig Smith, District Director, Rep. Steve Russell (Republican, Oklahoma)
10. Mr. Brian Spaulding, District Director, Rep. Jackie Walorski (Republican, Indiana)