Today is a very special day; 20 years ago the Berlin Wall fell. Being only just under 23 years old, I obviously have no recollection of the events that took place up to and on November 9th 1989. What I can attest to is just some of the experiences I have had since the fall of the wall that never would have happened or would be quite different had history played out in a different manor. Some of my memories are more trivial in nature than others but the implications that surround them cannot be understated.
1. Traveling in a united Germany as a sixth grader with my family - one of my most ingrained memories of this trip (other than the endless amounts of brats I ate) was my family’s trip to Dachau. The concentration camp there ingrained itself in the memory of a sixth grader in a way that very few things do, it is hard to imagine the atrocities that were committed there and the innocence that was lost. Obviously WWII is what originally led to the split; the fall of the wall is a reminder of what the Western world went through and the progress that has been made since.
2. Having a Czech sister Pavala! After having Pavala as our summer nanny my family invited her to move in and live with us for over a year while she completed her studies in the United States. My family and Pavala got so close that she is now considered part of our family. Getting to know her and traveling to the Czech Republic to meet her family are things that would have never happened without November 9th 1989.
3. In college my choir, The Wartburg Choir, was invited to sing with the Czech National symphony in Prague for a Christmas benefit concert. Two years later we returned to Europe and had concerts in East Germany and Slovenia. Once again these experiences would not of been possible prior to fall of the Berlin Wall.
4. Backpacking through Europe, was a completely different experience for me than my father when he went on a similar trip 30 years prior, the major difference is the fall of the wall and rise of the EU. As a result I was free to travel into central and Eastern Europe and cross borders without passport checks.
5. Today I am in Bologna Italy studying International Relations. As a TA for Theories of International Relations who spends great amounts of time reading academic papers written over the past century I can see the vast difference in world politics that has taken place since the end of the cold war. While the Bologna Center here in Italy has existed since the 1950s, one can imagine being here prior to 1989 would have made for a very different experience.
Later this evening John McCain will be speaking at the Washington DC SAIS Campus (and via a direct line to Bologna) on the continued importance of freedom today, while I am sure it will not surprise my family members to learn that I did not vote for him a year ago, I still greatly respect him as a war veteran, politician, and fellow human being. I am very much looking forward to hearing his speech on a topic that as you can see has revolutionized the world and my life thus far.
I encourage you to take some time today to think how the world and specifically your life might of been different had the Berlin wall not fallen on November 9th, 1989.