The major expression of the transatlantic relations was over 70 years ago when the US helped the German society on its own feet again. Since then, those actions have built the new foundation of the strong ties between the nations. There were several events were prominent figures in history revitalized the US-German relations like the famous ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’ speech by John F. Kennedy (1963). But those prominent figures aren’t available and due to recent international political events it is highly unlikely that the overdue makeover of these old common grounds will be executed by the politicians this time. That leaves this task to the civil society and this article will concentrate on how the young generation can contribute to the renewal of transatlantic relations.
Spreading the word
Many transatlantic programs for the younger ones are already established but the lack of a structured platform for the plenty of different possibilities for such an experience available nowadays is a big problem. Through the internet it is fairly easy to advertise a project. But attracting the attention of the targeted group is another difficulty. Because of the diversity of options on the internet too much information is spread and the recipient has difficulties to be informed about his or hers possibilities. Other difficulties emerge when you don’t know what to look for and the results of your search are too much to be handled. So digitalization has, on both counts, made it much easier but at the same time more difficult to spread the word.
Finding a binding element
Additional to the point above another perk of the internet is the rapidity of information flows. More people are reachable with less effort but on the same level much more information is spread which affects the reader’s receptiveness: less binding to non-binding relation to the received information. Although there are many different programs which benefit transatlantic relations, once they are found on the internet they have to be remembered. But as soon as a tab in the browser is closed, often an interesting program is forgotten. So for modernizing the transatlantic relations the information has to come to the younger generation in a way they will remember a suitable program. But how to make people remember such programs? You have to find something that attracts their attention, a binding element, something that is affecting the younger generation so they want to become active for that purpose. Programs should clearly implement a binding element. E.g., future prospects and the interconnection with climate change. It doesn’t matter where in Germany or the US people are living. Some of them have already been the victims of climate change outreach. So finding a binding element will help the program to generate interest and therefore be remembered by the younger people. That also leads to a common ground with the other participants.
Experiences will stay
But that is not enough. The youth needs an incisive experience through an interaction on the other side of the Atlantic. To achieve deep attachments on an individual level an adventure is needed. A lot of school students using the possibility to spend one school year in another country. But why not implementing US-German mixed classes where one year students are at a school in the one country and the upcoming year they are together in the other country. Finding friends, speaking the same language and spending much time of your teenager years’ together can highly contribute to friendships for a life-long time. And not only increase friendships but also helping stereotypes from arising and provide a deeper understanding for the other culture. People having ties across the ocean on an individual level are also passing the experiences on to their friends and family at home.
Interconnecting the youth is the goal. So why not use their internet skills. They are experienced in expressing themselves in the media though videos, pictures and comments. Joint projects like short films, animations or other visualizations like infographics will get them to a level of connectedness they can benefit from, or connecting two school classes with internet video calling or social networks to work together on a project. But for the element of structure it is inevitable to have an overall initiative, a framework, which is coordinating. Shaping the future ideas in small projects should be connected to one another and also should be published on a common platform. Make the information available to the public and easier to find. Because inspire people at a younger age to experience another culture will have an impact on them for their whole life.
What’s left out?
As stated above different elements are needed to renew transatlantic relations although one major aspect hasn’t been said yet: The whole variety of students should benefit from these programs. One of the great problems today is the gap between the elite and the poor. The middle class which built an important component of a society for a long time is about to vanish. At the same time there is hardly any support despite the fact that having a solid middle class is most likely to stabilize the political situation. Therefore programs should also aim at this direction.
From the end to the beginning
Much work is ahead of us. But what better way is there as to start now and not tomorrow. The action plan on how to renew the transatlantic relations starts here:
- Structure the status quo of programs and initiatives and make them approachable
- Knowing the perks of modern communication
- Find the binding element
- Evoke a deeper attachment
- Getting started on the individual level but keep projects connected
- Getting rid of exclusiveness
The youth has only experienced the benefits of the old ties but now they have the possibility to redefine common grounds. Together they can held up the stands that the politics are not able to preserve in these current times.