Thursday, October 27, 2005
Learning more each day
I had a wonderful meeting with Dr. Ekkie Stiller the Director of MUDEC this morning. I had an entire string of logistical details to ask about - everything from how do I do my laundry, how do I make phone calls, to technology access issues. All of this is in the context of trying to get acquainted in a community that is pretty U.S.A.-friendly but still very foreign and different. As a "note to self" for future reference (I'll probably begin including these more often), don't underestimate the difficulty of travel, learning new systems and ways of being, and not having the easy accessibility of resources that you assume each and every day. In many ways it makes me almost ashamed that I haven't learned to be more flexible to handle this sort of thing but now I'm beginning to learn.
The meeting with Dr. Stiller started with the end of a previous meeting he had with one of the students who is in my "Global Leadership" seminar - Sarah. She and another MUDEC student were so moved by a panel of concentration camp survivors who spoke at MUDEC last week that they wanted to compile a thank you reflection book to include comments from as many MUDEC students as would be willing to contribute. This conversation spun into what relevance there is to remembering the Holocaust in the contemporary age. We talked about conditions around our world today that are in essence mini-Holocausts involving the degradation and killing of people. The lessons that can be derived are mainly related to leadership - shared leadership and responsibility for the world in which we live. We can't be in everyone's business around the globe but what are the things that are so critical that they demand our attention? How does the U.S.A. respond and how/why is that different than how European countries respond? The fact is, Europeans are forever grateful for the role Americans played in concluding WWII but they have trouble understanding some of the other choices the U.S.A. has made intervening elsewhere. These are very difficult questions and they are ultimately about critical thinking and leadership, topics that we hope to dig into as we prepare for our trip to ILA next week.
Ekkie and I began to strategize things I can do to connect with Differdange and the surrounding area so that future Harry T. Wilks faculty can travel here and create powerful learning experiences for students. We agreed that I will attend the American Business Association, Luxembourg, luncheon on Monday, November 7th. The meeting, featuring Mrs. Marie-Jeanne Chevremont-Lorenzini, Senior Partner of PriceWaterhouseCooper, will be a good opportunity to connect with the business interests of those in the community. A particular contact that I will want to make at this meeting is Paul Shoenenberg, the President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Luxembourg. In addition, we decided that the week after next Ekkie and I will meet with the mayor of Differdange, Claude Meisch, to explore how MUDEC students can engage more actively with the community. I've been finding out more about Differdange and its history. The recovery from the 1970s demise of the steel industry left Differdange in a very difficult financial state. There was a period of decline and now the community is recreating itself as a bedroom community for Luxembourg City. There are many very nice and expensive homes but there is also evidence of people who do not have a lot. There is also a significant migrant community primarily composed of those emigrating from Portugal, Spain, and eastern European countries. The main reason for their coming to Luxembourg is to find economic prosperity. However, with Luxembourg's commitment to providing services to all citizens, finding the funds to support the immigrant population has been difficult. In addition, there is a feeling that immigrants do not connect with the city in the same ways as others. The result is a possible deficit in the social capital that would really make this a wonderful community in which to live.
The possibilities I'm now seeing are reenergizing the commitment I have to being here. Until this morning, it wasn't altogether clear what difference I could make but now I can see some possibilities.