As I’ve traveled your country – Berlin, Dresden, Nuremberg, Munich and Passeau – I’ve been reminded of Mrs. Clanton’s ninth-grade history class and the prominently hung poster that has stuck with me all these years, “if you fail to learn history you are destined to repeat it.” Churchill’s words may have been improvised but the message was clear; pay attention.
Germany, you have a reputation for precision and strategy. It’s clear to me that you’re taking a stance on many subjects of global importance. The list is extensive and although I could argue my American point of view on the pros and cons of these efforts, your focus on key areas is impressive even to the untrained eye.
For example, the automotive industry is one of your largest economic engines with tens of thousands of jobs. Somewhat surprisingly to me, you’re all-in on autonomous and electric vehicles. In America, Detroit has a diversified game-plan where electric is part of a larger strategy. In Germany, it seems to be the strategy.
We enjoyed visiting the Volkswagen and BMW interactive experiences and witnessing the social consciousness that foundationally underlies the go-to-market strategies of each brand. If autonomous driving and electric cars are not the future, you’ve left little room to pivot. Perhaps most interesting was the 2025 prediction – which was presented as fact-in-waiting – of fully autonomous vehicles. I’ll go on record now and say that neither of my children will get a driver’s license.
Another huge commitment and gamble is your renewable energy portfolio. One only has to drive on the autobahn to see the miles of solar and wind installations that dot the countryside. Hydroelectric and nuclear power are also highly visible. I know from current events that you are outpacing other developed countries with this technology. Whether fossil fuels disappear over time is yet to be seen (seems improbable to this Oklahoman) but your initiatives are leading from the front with ambition. Well done.
Back to Mrs. Clanton’s history class. Most freshman cannot understand double entendres which led to a lot of chuckles as to the meaning of her poster. For me, I took the warning seriously. When I arrived on campus at The University of Oklahoma in 1996, I had no idea where to focus my academic attention. History had always been my favorite subject so I decided that major would work despite alarmist comments like “what are you going to do with a history degree?” I focused my studies on European history, specifically during World War II. I studied what interested me, a good formula for determining how you should spend your time in general.
I’ve thought about Ms. Clanton’s poster a lot for my current role abroad. History is full of injustice and I have had a chance to explore the successes, failures and acts against humanity of the ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians as well as the never-ending struggle for control of the Holy Land. While this was fascinating to me, nothing feels closer to my generation than the events of Germany from World War I until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Post-war Germany, even in 2018, cannot be experienced without seeing the devastating effect of war, racism, fascism and socialism. I was surprised to witness the after-shock of the past 100 years still front and center today in the form of museums, politics, memorials, newspaper articles and bombed out buildings that remain scarred from a conflict that physically ended more than 70 years ago.
Soot remains on the buildings from fire bombings during WWII.
Blog posts get long if you try to unpack the “why” of political, religious and global conflict so I’ll leave you with this parting thought; I passed Mrs. Clanton’s class with an “A”. I give Germany similar marks.