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Celebrating 25 years of German unity

German dignitaries, university leaders and Mayor Nenshi gather for MacEwan Ballroom event

German dignitaries, university leaders and Mayor Nenshi gather for MacEwan Ballroom event

The reunification of Germany on October 3, 1990 was a world‐historical event that began a process of significant political, economic, and social change across Europe, and helped lead the way for Germany's emergence as a global leader in the promotion of peace through international political dialogue, intellectual exchange, and economic cooperation.

On Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 the Honorary Consul of Germany (in Calgary) and Consul General of Germany (in Vancouver), along with the University of Calgary International Office, Faculty of Arts, and Department of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures were pleased to host a “Celebration of 25 Years of German Unity” event in the MacEwan Ballroom at the University of Calgary (main campus). German dignitaries Honorary Consul Hubertus Liebrecht and Consul General Josef Beck were joined by several of the University of Calgary’s leaders in the drive for Internationalization, including Janaka Ruwanpura (Vice Provost, International), Richard Sigurdson (Dean, Faculty of Arts), and Florentine Strzelczyk (Vice Dean, Faculty of Arts), in inviting and welcoming members of the University of Calgary and general community to take part in marking this important anniversary.

Greeted with refreshments on arrival, guests had a chance to check out a photo exhibit on loan from the Press and Information Office of the Federal Government of Germany, featuring before and after architectural photos offering glimpses into what has been accomplished in the eastern part of Germany since reunification.

Master of Ceremonies, Cheryl Dueck (Associate Professor of German, Department of Linguistics, Languages and Cultures) began by introducing event co‐host, German Honorary Consul Hubertus Liebrecht, who welcomed the full house in attendance and thanked the event organizers and generous sponsors (Federal Republic of Germany, University of Calgary, Bayer CropScience and Baymag). He officially kicked off the celebration with the playing of the Canadian and German national anthems, followed by the introduction and welcome of his compatriot, Consul General Beck, to greet the attendees on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Consul General Beck was then followed by the Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Richard Sigurdson who spoke about the importance of such historical anniversaries and cultural memory and how the historic events of 1990 form the background for study and research projects within a variety of disciplines in the Faculty of Arts. He also described the close connection between the University of Calgary and the German community in Calgary and attributed this successful relationship to the efforts of Honorary Consul Hubertus Liebrecht. Dean Sigurdson then introduced His Worship, Mayor Naheed Nenshi, who articulated his support for the event, and also provided moving remarks that connected German reunification to current events. He continued his remarks with genuine enthusiasm by commenting on the sizeable German community in Calgary, the leadership role of Germany in the world and admirable resilience of the German people, finishing with his sincere gratitude at having been invited to the celebration.

The remaining presentations featured a talk by Janaka Ruwanpura (Vice Provost, International) regarding Germany as a country of focus in the University of Calgary’s “International Strategy”, and Annette Timm (Associate Professor of History) who offered a historical appraisal of the surprising course of events which occurred in the year following the fall of the Berlin Wall and leading up to the official, political reunification of Germany.

The final presentation for the event was given by the invited Keynote Speaker, Vera Lengsfeld. As an opposition activist in East Germany beginning in the early 1980s, a member of the Round Table discussion group involved in reunification negotiations, a representative in the first freely elected government of the GDR in 1990, and a Bundestag member from 1990‐2005, Lengsfeld was able to offer a remarkable behind the scenes account of the fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent reunification process. She emphasized the people's will as a driving force, pointing out that there were no politicians at the opening of the border, and that GDR citizens had shown at their demonstrations and in their electoral choices in 1990, that they were very clear about their desire for reunification.

After an informative question and answer period with the audience, Ms. Lengsfeld was thanked by MC Dueck on behalf of the event organizers and guests, who were then invited to partake in the reception. Attendees were treated to German cuisine and drinks while they listened to beautiful renditions of Felix Mendelssohn’s “String Quartet in D Major", OP. 44 and Ludwig Van Beethoven’s (as arranged by E. Agopian), "Ode to Joy", from Symphony No. 9, OP. 125, played by the University of Calgary’s own and very talented String Quartet (Edmond Agopian, 1st violin; Conor Stuart, 2nd violin; Dean O’Brien, viola and Beth Root Sandvoss, cello).

There were almost 200 attendees at the event including academics, staff and students from the University of Calgary, members of the German and larger Calgary community, business leaders, government officials (MLA for Vermilion‐ Lloydminster, Dr. Richard Starke and Mayor Naheed Nenshi), and international diplomats and dignitaries from various countries around the world (Finland, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands and the United States were all represented).

A huge thank you on behalf of the organizers of the “Celebrating 25 Years of German Unity” event to the speakers and guests, especially Ms. Vera Lengsfeld, Consul General Josef Beck, Mayor Naheed Nenshi and the event sponsors (The Federal Republic of Germany, University of Calgary, Bayer CropScience and Baymag). Many additional thanks to all those who helped organize, or otherwise lent their support, and also to all those who attended to celebrate this momentous occasion.

Vielen herzlichen Dank