Sunday, December 03, 2006

Vienna - one year later

I've been reliving my weekend in Vienna throughout the current weekend. Clearly, Vienna was one of my favorite European cities and it's hard to forget what an amazing visit I had. With adjustments for time zones, by now I was back in Differdange, moving into the final days of teaching, writing, and solitude.

Vienna was amazing because of the overwhelming history that took place there and the art which stands as a testament to Vienna's importance throughout Europe for 700 years - up to the dawn of the 21st century. I keep thinking back about when Diane and I can return. I loved Vienna in the winter, with its very short days, snow floating through the air, streets filled with fur-clad shoppers, and musicians in concerts halls and the streets. I want to go back in the summer as well to see its lush gardens, the Danube, and the outdoor environs made for all to enjoy.

Shifting to another of my favorite cities, I noticed a piece in the paper this morning about JFK's 1963 visit to Berlin. The piece informed of the opening of a new exhibit just at the threshold of the Brandenburg gates that is dedicated to JFK's visit. His visit was intended as a statement of support to Berlin after the USSR erected the Berlin Wall in 1961. Free Germans were fearful of being overtaken by Soviet power but JFK had the courage to go there and to proclaim, "Ich ben eine Berliner." His statement reflected that free citizens everywhere are connected to each other. This event still ranks as the top historical event of the past one hundred years for most Germans.

JFK and RFK's times were different - the cold war, civil rights, economic disparity... Or were they? Having seen "Bobby" this last week with my first-year leadership seminar students, I was deeply reminded of the turmoil of the 1960s. My belief is that we have reached another pinnacle time of turmoil in human history. The cold war, where outright military confrontation was avoided but unknown enemies lurked behind every headline, is strangely reminiscent of the war on terrorism. Gains acheived in the Civil Rights Act of 1954 are being challenged in a Supreme Court case moving to the national center stage tomorrow, 12-4-06. Economic disparity is at an all-time high in the U.S.A. Corporate CEO conpensation has risen at outrageous rates while downsizing requires layoffs and flat compensation for the working class.

There is a strange symetry among the random thoughts in this post this morning. The dynasty of the Habsburg family in Austria, the legacy of the Kennedy family as advocates for change while they occupied places of privilege, and the present struggle before us in finding politicians who are capable of the leadership we need to advance the human condition. These times may stir fear in our souls but they also enliven the quest for more adequate and, indeed, effective ways of understanding leadership. What kind of "leadership" do we need to engage citiznes in the complex negotiations of the modern day?


Aquilifer said...

"Economic disparity is at an all-time high in the U.S.A."

We're often being told this, but the claims always turn out to be exaggerated when examined....

Denny Roberts said...

I would be interested in your data. I'd like to be as informed as possible. The evidence I've seen indicates that the gap between rich, middle-class, and poor is greater than it has ever been. I would like to see information that challenges this assertion or develops the argument further.