Lessons in Citizenship

20 May, '10

School children listening to the Speaker of the German Government

Yesterday was a full day with us starting with a visit to Der Tagesspiegel and chatting with its editor responsible for both online and print media and then to the Bundespressekonferenz to listen to about a dozen ministerial spokespersons, who each in turn presented the latest news from their ministry and fielded questions from the audience.

As special guests at the Bundespressekonferenz, we were also joined by a class of young German students. Both our groups were invited to stay after the official part of the conference was done, and then listened to and questioned the government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm.

The Bundespressekonferenz is an NGO created by journalists just after the 2nd World War. Its members are invited to listen to the government programs presented by the invited government representatives and are given the opportunity to ask questions during these fixed meetings which occur every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Guests are permitted but are not allowed to ask questions. It’s held in a building directly opposite the parliament.

What impressed me most about this event is not only the presence of German youth, but the special attention given to them – they were especially welcomed by the chairman of the session and recognised – but also the time the government official took to address them, talk to them about the current issues discussed at that session and answered their questions.

This, to my mind, served two very important purposes: [1] it demonstrated the transparency of the government, and most importantly [2] without having the youth waving German flags and carrying pictures of their PM, they were given a very subtle and much more effective lesson in citizenship; one that will be deeply ingrained and doesn’t require overt and most of the time excessive demonstration of forced loyalty to ones country.

I’m starting to love Germany…

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