By Karl Weisel (USAG Wiesbaden)November 6, 2013
WIESBADEN, Germany - It might seem like ancient history to Wiesbaden Middle School students.
But thanks to a special exhibition on display at the school through Nov. 24, students are getting a chance to revisit a crucial time in the history of German-American relations -- the four-day visit by President John F. Kennedy to Germany five decades ago.
The traveling exhibit, put together by members of the Hessen State Archive to commemorate Kennedy's visit to the German state in June 1963, details the precarious world situation and stormy political environment of the Cold War years, the history of the Kennedy family and the massive reception received by the president during his visit to cities in Hessen and West Berlin.
"This exhibition aims to build a bridge from the past to the present," said Dr. Johann Zilien of the Hessen State Archive during the exhibition opening at Wiesbaden Middle School Nov. 4.
"It is my hope that every student in this school gets a chance to learn about our 35th president -- John F. Kennedy," said Dr. Susan Hargis, the school's principal. "I hope that you will learn and that you keep this memory with you for the next 50 years."
"In this exhibit you will see how the citizens of Hesse enthusiastically received him and cheered him on in 1963," said Col. David Carstens, U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden commander. "He was warmly embraced, not only because he had a way of inspiring people with ringing phrases on democracy and freedom, but because he embodied a United States that was seen at the time as a steadfast protector and a beacon of hope for people facing the threat of tyranny and oppression during the Cold War.
Carstens added that despite some of the challenges in relations today, "things have really not changed that much."
"The people of the United States and the people of the German Federal Republic share the same hopes, desires and aspirations," he said. "As we stood together in 1963 and throughout the Cold War to deter the Soviet threat, so we need each other, more than ever, to confront the serious environmental, economic, social and geo-political challenges of today and in the days to come."
Calling the exhibit timely, Carstens said that it's important for members of the older generation to teach younger people about the bonds established over time.
"This 20th century exhibition will help our students grow into 21st century leaders," said Dr. Dell McMullen, Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe Kaiserslautern District superintendent.
Community members are invited to stop by during school hours to view the exhibit which is arranged in the lobby and two classrooms of the Wiesbaden Middle School in Hainerberg Housing. People can also call the school at civ (0611) 4080-373 to inquire about group visits to view the exhibition.