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Young Leader Alumni Programming

Throughout the year, the ACG organizes events for our Young Leader alumni.

Discussion with Ambassador Peter Wittig
On October 30, some 80 Young Leader alumni gathered at the invitation of German Ambassador to the U.S. Peter Wittig at his Residence. There were alumni from the Washington DC area, but as far afield as Munich, Seattle, Florida, Indianapolis, and Vermont. While there were alumni representing most years from 1975 through this summer’s XXXIX conference, when the alumni convene, everyone melds into one large, warm, and friendly group – resembling a larger Young Leaders Conference. There were representatives of Congress, the Senate, the State Department, Homeland Security, the FCC, journalism, military, think tanks, sports, trade groups, law firms, corporations, and others in attendance – a wonderfully eclectic group. Old friendships were renewed and new ties were made. We were honored to have Under Secretary of Treasury (for International Affairs) David Malpass, a longtime friend of the ACG, join us. The group was also addressed by ACG Chairman Ambassador Robert M. Kimmitt, who underscored the pride the ACG takes in this nearly 45-year-old program. Ambassador Wittig stressed the great importance of the work and programs of the American Council on Germany.

“Digitalization and the Future of Work”
Autonomous cars, AI, “upskilling,” and “precision farming” – these were just some of the buzzwords in the air when about 30 Young Leader alumni and friends of the American Council on Germany and Atlantik‐Brücke gathered to meet with alumni Dr. Robin Mishra, Minister‐Counselor and Head of the Science and Technology Section at the German Embassy, and Christopher M. Schroeder, an entrepreneur and Internet investor who is also an ACG Board Member, on October 16 at Dentons US LLP in New York City. The two discussed the great potential of digitalization to solve a wide array of problems, including creating jobs of the future. Mr. Schroeder called software the driving force of the current transformation, at the heart of the “confluence of many impactful things.” Dr. Mishra talked about the technological advances being made in industries where we might not expect. A spirited discussion on the shape of things to come followed their remarks.

“Democracy Under Threat? Public Discourse and Political Culture in a Changing Media Environment”
On May 17, 2017, some 50 Young Leader Alumni of the ACG and Atlantik-Brücke attended an evening discussion and reception at the Vodafone Foundation Germany in Berlin. Moderated by journalist Ali Aslan, the panelists focused on transparency, the responsibility inherent in the editorializing role of newsrooms and journalists as mediators of information in an increasingly noisy news environment, and the general failure of the media during the last election to do analytical journalism instead of simply providing a conduit for raw information. Gordon Repinski of Der Spiegel, Atika Shubert of CNN, and Anton Troianovski of the Wall Street Journal all emphasized the new realization among journalists that they need to be information elites, reporting critically, rather than just passing on information. They called for “sustained coverage of local stories and local people,” an exacting editorial process to avoid errors that might call their integrity into doubt, and the need to show transparency with respect to sources, data, and fact-based claims.

“Germany’s Humanitarian and Security Challenges”
On May 18, 2016, the German Federal Minister of the Interior, Thomas de Maiziere (1989 Young Leader), made a point of meeting with a group of nearly 80 Young Leader alumni and other special guests to discuss immigration, terrorism, and counterterrorism in the Capitol in Washington, DC. He was introduced by 2009 Young Leader Congressman Joaquin Castro (Texas-D). In his remarks, Minister de Maiziere said Europe and especially Germany are facing significant humanitarian and security policy challenges. Homing in on Europe’s refugee crisis, he said the migration of people is nothing new, but the volume of migrants and the speed and reason for their movement makes the challenge of managing migration that much more complex. He cited the threat posed by ISIL as a catalyst for the waves of migration. He said that no single country can tackle the challenges of migration or terrorism alone.

Discussion with Theo Sommer, Editor-at-Large for Die Zeit
On January 12, 2016, ACG Young Leader alumni had the opportunity to meet with Theo Sommer, Editor-at-Large for DIE ZEIT, at the residence of German Ambassador to the United States Peter Wittig to discuss the challenges facing the transatlantic partnership. The American Friends of Bucerius co-sponsored the event and alumni from several Bucerius programs attended the gathering.

In his remarks, Mr. Sommer reflected on the history of the German-American partnership throughout the post-World War II period. He said that the “relationship has never been trouble-free, but the pragmatism of self-preservation kept the relationship together.” This was especially true during the Cold War. But, over the past 25 years, there has been a separation as Berlin and Washington take different approaches to the global challenges facing the international community.

Mr. Sommer expressed concern over the relative strength of the United States and Europe: “America is not at its apex and Europe has not yet reached its zenith” – but both are weaker than they have been. He added that one cannot exclude the collapse of Europe – a Grexit is possible and a Brexit is looming. Mr. Sommer went on to say that “the fragmentation of Europe is possible,” and that the future of the European Union may include a “core” of stronger nation states which are able to fulfill the criteria of EU membership and a periphery.

During this time of turbulence for Europe, it is important that the transatlantic partnership is not allowed to erode. Europe and the United States face common challenges – such as terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, peace in the Middle East, energy and climate change, and trade disputes – and must work together to meet them. “Europe and the United States have more in common with each other than with any other world power.”

Alumni Event in Berlin on “Entrepreneurship and Innovation”
On Saturday, September 12, 2015, roughly 150 Young Leader alumni from the American Council on Germany and the Atlantik-Brücke met at the offices of Microsoft Deutschland GmbH in Berlin for a conference on “Entrepreneurship and Innovation.“ The event attracted alumni from throughout Germany, across Europe, and the United States from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines.

The alumni had the opportunity hear from fellow alumni during two panel discussions plus additional break-out sessions on start-ups in the United States and Germany. The first panel focused on the impact of digitalization on the global economy and featured Jan Neutze, Director of Cybersecurity Policy EMEA at Microsoft, and State Secretary Jens Spahn, MdB (CDU/CSU), Federal Ministry of Finance. The second panel featured two investors who discussed venture capital: Jan Beckers, Founder & CEO of HitFox Group GmbH, and Mark Hartmann, Partner and Founding Team Member of Project A Ventures GmbH & Co. KG.

After the substantive discussions, the Young Leader alumni gathered for more informal networking.

Alumni Event with Atlantik-Brücke and PwC Strategy&
On Thursday evening, May 7, 2015, American Council on Germany, in partnership with the Atlantik-Brücke and PwC Strategy & held a Young Leaders Alumni event on the “Digital Transformation of Business and Society.” The evening included a panel discussion with Hans-Christian Boos, the CEO and Founder of arago GmbH; Karl-Theodor Freiherr zu Guttenberg, former German Federal Minister of Defense and Minister of Economics and Technology and Chairman of Spitzberg Partners LLC; and Michael Santorelli, Director of the Advanced Communications Law and Policy Institute at New York Law School. At the center of the conversation was the growing use of technology, cyber security issues, and the differences between American and German use of technology.