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Message from the President April 2017

Happy Eastertide from the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA® in Washington, DC!

The weather is beautiful, visitation to our Museum is up, and we are hard at work connecting Americans to their German-speaking heritage!

We are pressing onward with our efforts to conduct a nation-wide German-American Heritage Survey, which will help us in our work with local partners to create heritage routes connecting sites important to the American story of German-speaking settlement and migration.  Our friends in Europe are interested in promoting these heritage routes as part of a broader picture of emigration routes from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, and German-speaking minority areas throughout Europe.  Join in our efforts to make certain that sites important to you are nominated for the German-American Heritage Survey!

It is at Easter that we think about the sacrifice in love of those who came before us, and how we can be a blessing to others in turn.  In areas in the Midwest and Upper South (two areas of large German-speaking settlement in the Nineteenth Century), the lack of steady work at well-paying jobs for non-Latino whites without college degrees has resulted in drop in life expectancy and an increase in mortality for those aged 45 to 54. Researchers within that group, researchers Anne Case and Angus Deaton have documented that since 1999 suicides are up, prescription drug abuse (mostly opioids) are up, alcoholic liver disease is up.  They are “deaths of despair” by suicide, drugs and alcohol.

As Anne Case said in an interview on NPR, “These deaths of despair have been accompanied by reduced labor force participation, reduced marriage rates, increases in reports of poor health and poor mental health. So we are beginning to thread a story in that it’s possible that [the trend is] consistent with the labor market collapsing for people with less than a college degree. In turn, those people are being less able to form stable marriages, and in turn that has effects on the kind of economic and social supports that people need in order to thrive.”

For some time, current and recent members of the board of the German-American Heritage Foundation of the USA have been troubled that the American educational and worker training systems are failing some of our fellow Americans.  They have worked to engage business on other pathways that show promise, particularly the model that German companies follow in the way of worker training that may work best here in the U.S. in cooperation with our remarkable community college system.

We are gratified that worker training is being given a higher priority on both sides of the Atlantic.  A few weeks ago, when Chancellor Angela Merkel flew in to Washington for her first official state visit with President Donald Trump, the two heads of state met with important private sector CEOs: from the U.S., Andrew Liveris, CEO of Dow Chemical; Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM; and Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce. From Germany were Harald Krüger, CEO of BMW AG; Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens AG; and Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler AG.

The problems facing America are not unique to the West; German-speaking countries are facing the same issues.  Good people on both sides of the Atlantic are coming up with innovative solutions, and I am pleased that our members are using their networks, rooted in their heritage, to span an ocean to help people next door.

Happy Easter to you, and your family.

J. Marc Wheat