Marshall Memorial Fellowship Reflections
Last fall, over 30 fellows from across the U.S. and Europe embarked on one of the most transformative experiences of their careers: the GMF Marshall Memorial Fellowship. Through four weeks of intensive travel, fellows engaged in a cultural exchange unlike any other, deepening both their ways of approaching and understanding the value of the transatlantic relationship.
Yet what these new transatlantic leaders took away from their experience is equally important as the fellowship itself. Some fellows explored new ways of approaching old issues; some reflected upon different ways of democracies work; while some found similarities with others from completely different backgrounds.
Step into the shoes of six recent fellows, and discover the Marshall Memorial Fellowship through their experiences:
Stanley Chang revisits the journey he made to the idyllic German village, Reichersbeuern, and his account of the town’s response to the influx of Syrian refugees. Chang greatly admired Germany’s decision to welcome the Syrian refugees in 2015, despite the increase in anti-migration forces within European politics. Germany’s generous hospitality reminded Chang of his father’s experience, who fled China to start a new life in Hawaii free from civil war and with it, the potential for a prosperous future.
Dritan Karadaku reflects on how his visit to the U.S. was disrupted by entrenched bipartisanship and populist rhetoric. Dritan believes the U.S. can serve as a platform for discussing and understanding the negative changes spreading across both the U.S. and Europe. Dritan believes one of the biggest threats to the democracy of the United States is the delicate balance between the federal and state government. Despite the potential divide between the federal and state governments, they both believe the role of the U.S. on the transatlantic field as least essential, an issue that must be resolved for the U.S. to serve as a model democracy for the rest of the world.
Amy Lee addresses her concern for the divide in communication between key leaders and the average citizen. To achieve a stronger line of communication, she argues, there must be an improvement in education. This will improve the public’s decision-making skills, and encourage more deliberation among the citizenry. Lee is optimistic because of how the public is ready to be engaged on issues that resonate with them as citizens of the United States.
Marie Hindhede believes anyone can see the considerable disconnect between those who hold office and the people they represent because of the grip current issues have on the public: xenophobia, forsaken infrastructure projects, the government’s priorities, and technological advances affecting small businesses. The disconnect between the government and the people is not a modern issue. Marie believes the government must face these challenges head-on by working with the people - a fundamental necessity of democracy.
Oilid Mountassar juggles whether the U.S. entrepreneurship spirit is as accessible and free as Americans claim it to be, or if it’s sectioned off for those with pre-established capital. Oilid recounts his visit to Detroit where he witnessed great divides between affluent and developing neighborhoods. Oilid relates this societal and economic divide to his home country of France, which pushes for more entrepreneurship opportunities within minority groups. Oilid thinks countries that value entrepreneurial opportunities must decide whether they will hold firm to the belief entrepreneurship is free and accessible to everyone or adjust to help minorities access larger capital and eventually financial independence.
Nicoletta Pirozzi began her Fellowship eager to discover the root of the current crisis in liberal democratic institutions. Nicoletta derived from her discussion and engagement with past and present fellows that the people’s active engagement in their communities and “bottom-up approach” serve as the solution to the current political juncture on both sides of the Atlantic. To reach a solution, there needs to be a restoration of accountability of governmental institutions, investments in education for empowerment, and a boost in partnerships at transnational and transatlantic levels.
The Marshall Memorial Fellowship empowers emerging leaders from business, government, and civil society for transatlantic engagement and cooperation through intense learning and networking. If you would like to nominate a candidate, or apply yourself, please visit our website.
Photo Credit: John Kehly / Shutterstock