The mood was celebratory last September 9th when German President Johannes Rau joined Richard Holbrooke, Henry Kissinger, Robert Mundheim, and over three hundred guests in welcoming the fourth class of Academy Fellows to the Villa Hans Arnhold on the Wannsee. Two days later life had changed for these Americans in Berlin. No longer simply scholars, artists, and policy experts abroad, they became a first-hand resource for the media, policymakers, and other German colleagues. America was truly present in Berlin. One year later the mission of the American Academy – to deepen transatlantic relations between the academic, cultural, and policy elites of Germany and the U.S. - has become more urgent than ever. The writers, economists, and composers in residence constitute a kind of American cultural presence in Berlin. Emissaries of American sensibilities, they represent the most reflective, oft antithetical viewpoints from across the Atlantic. The image of Germany they transport back across the Atlantic is similarly refined: complex, informed, affectionate. The idea of the American Academy in Berlin – an institution founded entirely upon the private generosity of distinguished Americans and Germans – was not to establish an academic monastery but a dynamic venue for transatlantic exchange. Thus we encourage the public awareness ensured by openness to the media necessary to the effectively the work of Academy Fellows. A new policy initiative created with strong support of JPMorgan, The Berlin Economic Policy Forum, will showcase one of the Academy’s disciplinary focal points. Indeed, a program of ninety lectures, readings, debates, and concerts underscore the Academy’s intention to act as a preeminent venue for German-American cultural exchange. This aim reflects both the intention of its founders and the tradition of the house which bears the distinguished of the banker Hans Arnhold.
The author is Executive Director of The American Academy in Berlin.