What would you like the youth of America to know?

Let me start by saying that this is a good Germany, the best we've ever had. And that's not mere rhetoric. When I was born, the National Socialists -- who brought suffering and war to the world -- were in power. When the Second World War ended, I was five years old. Our country was in ruins, both materially and morally. Just look at where Germany stands today: it's a stable democracy, free and peace loving, prosperous and open. It champions human rights. It's a reliable partner in Europe and the world: an equal partner with equal responsibilities. All of that fills me with profound gratitude and joy.

It's most important achievement is that Germany, with the help of its partners, has turned a past blighted by war and dominance into a present marked by peace and cooperation.

What they sent me:
I'm not quite sure why, but this letter from Germany really tugged at my heart. Maybe it's because I was in the middle of my AP Western Civilization class and we learn so much about how the poor handling of World War I led to World War II, and not much beyond. It's easy to forget that there was a happy ending to the war for everyone eventually.

Maybe I was so touched because the phrase "This is a good Germany" made me realize that deep down I hadn't been thinking of Germany that way. In so many popular movies and books that come out in America every year, Germany is portrayed as the opposite. The guilt is hard to bear when so many Americans like myself have German ancestry. Of course we don't want to forget things done wrong in past so that we don't repeat them, but we also can't forget about forgiveness.

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Today Germany has the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP and is a global leader in many areas including industrial and technology. It is a highly developed country with a very high standard of living, a strong economy, and as of 2015, a surplus in the government budget. Also in 2015, Germany posted a balanced federal budget, meaning the government didn't spend more than it earned. (In contrast, the U.S. government is expected to have a deficit in 2015 because the government estimates it will spend $532 billion more than it makes. Instead of a balanced budget, the U.S. will run a -3.2 percent deficit of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2015, which is at least better than the -9.8 percent deficit posted in 2009.)

The reasons for Germany's strong economy are many, including a stable and flexible labor market, low levels of private debt, and an educational system geared toward vocational training.

Germany is also well-known for its scenery, culture, and music. Famous German-born composers include Bach, Handel, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Wagner and Richard Strauss.

I did look up the teen website that they recommended (you can find the site here). It's a nice site meant to educate kids in America about what it's like to be a kid in Germany. Fictitious 16-year-old Katja and her 11-year-old brother Philipp take you on a tour of Germany and give you insight into their family, school, and hobbies. It's a bit young and cartoony for a high school audience, but it's a great site for gradeschoolers or maybe even middleschoolers. If you have a younger brother or sister, they would love it. I found the Philipp section was actually much more informative than the Katja pages.

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Official Name
Federal Republic of Germany

Federal Republic

Current Leader
Joachim Gauck

• His father survived three years in a Soviet Gulag in Siberia

• Gauck is a former pastor and civil rights activist

• Gauck has been called "Germany's answer to Nelson Mandela" for his role in the 1989 Peaceful Revolution that reunified Germany

Recommended sites
Presidential Website

Germany for Kids & Teens

German Missions in the US