First Initiatives To Give Political Voice to German-American Community
Have you noticed, dear reader, how many German surnames appear in American politics? I am thinking of US Secretary of Treasurer Timothy F. Geithner and the recently elected new Speaker of the House John A. Boehner, as well as the countless German surnames among representatives and senators such as Heidepriem, Daschle, Ehrlich, Shuster and Gerlach. But do these politicians give the German-American community any political influence in the USA? So far, definitely not. Even though Germany is America’s most important partner in Europe, has the third largest economy in the world, and although 43 million Americans, according to the 2000 Census, are of German descent and are thus the largest ethnic minority in the USA, Germany plays no role in the US media and politics. Even a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Los Angeles was covered by the LA Times with a mere photo and a two-line text.
The opening of the first national German-American Heritage Museum in Washington DC in March of this year put German-Americans in the limelight for the first time, with a focus on their history and their achievements.
And slowly, we are seeing what looks like a new trend in American politics, too. Not only did John A. Boehner talk openly about his German descent in a TV
interview with Diane Sawyer, Jim Gerlach from Pennsylvania has recently issued an initiative for creating a German-American caucus in the US Congress.
At a gala event of the German Society of Pennsylvania on October 3 commemorating the 20th anniversary of German reunification he spoke in detail about his plans: “My growing awareness of my family’s German roots and the rich German heritage in my Congressional District has led me to take actions in the House of Representatives to foster a greater appreciation of and fortify the German-American connection. (….) The Caucus will be an informal, bipartisan group of Members of Congress dedicated to maintaining and strengthening the relationship between the US and Germany. It will highlight our current economic ties with Germany and draw attention to the German-American heritage and achievements German-Americans have made in building the United States. The House already has well-established caucuses focused on issues with India, Pakistan, Switzerland, Mexico, and Albania to name a few. I believe it well past time to establish one focusing on the German-American experience.”
Don’t you think that it is finally time to honor the achievements of German-Americans in building and developing the United States of America?
Jim Gerlach has already found support from the nonprofit organizations German American Business Council, German American Coalition and German American Heritage Foundation. I hope that many members of the US Congress from both parties will listen to and follow Jim Gerlach’s request. After all, Germany is still America’s most important partner. Reason enough for a sufficient number of American politicians to step forward and help launch this caucus, either because of their German descent or their interest in Germany and Europe.