Today’s college students have known only one Germany in their lifetime, but those from previous generations recall the post-World War II nations of East Germany and West Germany – until the wall separating those countries dramatically came down. That event – 25 years ago this weekend – will be the focus of a special program at Southern Connecticut State University that will feature Nicholas Burns, a career U.S. diplomat who played a key role in how the Bush Administration dealt with the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Burns, who was involved in the discussions on Berlin and Germany before and during that pivotal time in history, will be the keynote speaker at a Monday, Nov. 10 forum on campus. The program, “Remembering the Fall of the Berlin Wall: 25 Years Later,” is free and open to the public, and will run from Noon to 2 p.m. in the Michael J. Adanti Student Center.
Burns served in the United States government for twenty-seven years. Today, he is a professor of the practice of diplomacy and international politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. He is a member of Secretary of State John Kerry’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board at the U.S. Department of State. He also writes foreign policy columns for the Boston Globe and Global Post and is a noted lecturer on U.S. foreign policy.
On November 9, 1989, jubilant crowds gathered on both sides of the Berlin Wall to celebrate the opening of border crossings between eastern and western parts of the city – an act that seemed impossible for decades, but would within a year lead to the reunification of Germany for the first time since World War II.
A panel discussion will follow the keynote and is scheduled to include:
- Troy Paddock, chairman of the SCSU History Department and an expert on German history;
- Kevin Buterbaugh, SCSU professor of political science and an international relations specialist;
- Steven Breese, dean of the SCSU School of Arts & Sciences who lived in West Germany in 1989;
- Eileen Kane, assistant professor of history at Connecticut College, where she specializes in modern Soviet/Russian history.
Video clips of major historical milestones pertaining to the fall will be shown, and a question-and-answer period will follow the panel discussion. The video will include a look at the construction of the wall, as well as clips from speeches at the wall by President John F. Kennedy ("Ich bin ein Berliner") and President Ronald W. Reagan (Tear down this wall!).
As a career Foreign Service Officer, Burns was Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008; the State Department’s third-ranking official when he led negotiations on the U.S.–India Civil Nuclear Agreement; a long-term military assistance agreement with Israel; and was the lead U.S. negotiator on Iran’s nuclear program. In 1990, he was appointed by President George H.W. Bush to the National Security Council, a post he held until 1995, bridging the administrations of Bush and President Bill Clinton.
Burns was U.S. Ambassador to NATO (2001–2005), Ambassador to Greece (1997–2001) and State Department Spokesman (1995–1997). He worked for five years (1990–1995) on the National Security Council at the White House where he was Senior Director for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Affairs and Special Assistant to President Clinton and Director for Soviet Affairs in the Administration of President George H.W. Bush.