Happy Independence Day!
Every year at this time, Americans pause to reflect on the liberties that we enjoy and on the institutions that cultivate the love of country. I am thankful for your support for one of those institutions, the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA®.
I hope that you can come to see our current exhibit “Missouri Immigrant Experience: Faces and Places” and beginning in the fall we are planning special exhibits and lectures centered around the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Your support for these endeavors is most appreciated.
Because of the titanic historic forces set in motion by the Reformation, more Americans claim German heritage than any other ancestral group.
Since arriving to these shores at Jamestown in 1607, German Americans have been contributing their love of family, faith, and talents to forge a new American identity on every frontier of human endeavor. Generally arriving to America as extended families, German Americans over the past four centuries still carry on that sense of community and the confidence it brings to permeate their vocations in their adopted homeland.
We see the evidence of the German Americans’ love of education and hard work all around us. Whether we join in the excitement of a child’s first day of kindergarten, listen to great music on a Steinway piano, or share in the wonder of new discoveries in space exploration, we recognize that German Americans have shaped our perceptions of what is beautiful and possible through their industry, culture, and generosity of spirit.
The legacy of a democratic republic that resulted from America’s post WWII influence has been one of the greatest gifts that enabled the recovery of Germany and bears fruit to this day as a force in worldwide relations, championing democracy, human dignity, and the rule of law. These ideals are shared by Americans everywhere, and are the solid foundations on which a strong bridge of friendship spans the Atlantic Ocean.
America is a better Nation because of those German immigrants who chose to leave their homes in Germany for the promise of a better future for themselves and their progeny in America. Whether they were among the first to arrive in colonial Pennsylvania and Virginia or among the arrivals who contributed so much to our industrial states, all have played a significant role in achieving the defining accomplishments of our American democracy.
The German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA® works to recall the contributions of Americans who come from a German-speaking background; it is our story told by ourselves, and we seek to inspire others to seek out their own immigration story and preserve it for future generations.
Let us also pause to reflect on two men who made great contributions to the preservation of German-American culture who left us in the last two weeks: Bernhard E. Deichmann (1935-2017) and James Rogers Berry (1937–2017). Bern was the long-time president of the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA®, and raised the funds that made possible our headquarters and museum, Hockemeyer Hall; much more on Bern’s legacy will be chronicled in the next members’ newsletter. Jim was the inspiration and driving force behind Hebron Lutheran Church Foundation, which supports the mission and outreach of the oldest Lutheran Church continuously in use by Lutherans in America. The church was founded in London by German-speakers living abroad prior to their emigration to America in 1717. Both men had a significant impact on me, and will be missed.
All the very best to you and your family this Independence Day,
J. Marc Wheat