by Rich Landesberg
Our study of the European Union took us to the heart of being an American. Our coach journey took just under three hours to get to the little country of Luxembourg but what we found there not only taught us about the EU but about ourselves. It all started with a 5:00 AM wakeup call and everyone on time for the 6:30 AM departure.
We started with a terrific briefing and tour of the European Courts of Justice. Our students were engaged and asked great questions, making it easy to stay awake despite the early departure. We learned about how laws are interpreted and lawsuits adjudicated in the evolving experiment that is the European Union. After our morning session, it was off to a walking tour of Luxembourg City.
Things sure are different here. The picture above is taken in front of the Luxembourg Prime Minister’s office. Note the absence of guards, dogs or barbed wire. It would not have been surprising to have the PM walk out of his office to say hello. The rest of the city has the same mellow vibe. After our walk, everyone had a chance for lunch. Some folks found one of the great patisseries in town and stopped in for a sandwich or quiche and, of course, for some decadent pastry. We would need the fuel for our next, emotional, stop.
The US military cemetery in Luxembourg is one of a number around the world. Just like the others, this has row upon row of crosses and Stars of David, all neatly aligned, all with the name of a young man or woman who never came home from WW II. Most of them were fighting in the battle of the bulge which came through this area (this is the battle immortalized in the excellent HBO series, “Band of Brothers”). There are ordinary draftees here along with Medal of Honor winners and General George S Patton.
Our students listened intently as our guide talked about Patton and the soldiers who fought the battle of the bulge. With each story, we learned more about the everyday citizens who became soldiers in the 1940s. For Dr. Morgan and me, these were the stories about our parents and their friends. For our students, it was about many of their grandparents. For all of us, it was about being an American and paying our respects to those who gave so much for us and others in this world. It was hard to walk away unchanged.
At dusk, our students were invited to participate in the flag-lowering ceremony. As taps played on a cold, grey, windy day, our students helped the cemetery superintendent make sure the flag was properly stored for the evening. It was a quiet, reflective drive back to Brussels.
Tomorrow is another early day, with a morning flight to Budapest.