For Paul Glootz ’13, a pleasant weekend trip home to the city of Magdeburg, Germany, culminated in an appearance on a live German national television show on Monday night.
Falling on the 20th anniversary of Germany’s reunification, the weekly political talk show called “Fakt Ist…!”—which translates to “The Fact Is...!” in English—gathered a panel of speakers to discuss how the reunification of Germany in 1990 has affected its citizens.
The Pforzheimer House resident and native of Magdeburg, a city located in the former East Germany, was invited to speak on show after the German news channel MDR interviewed him following his admission to Harvard College.
“People from the show saw the story and thought I was a good representative of my generation,” he said. “So they asked me if I wanted to be on the show representing the generation born around or right after the reunion” of East and West Germany.
Before leaving for Europe, Glootz said that he intended to speak “about how many new opportunities we’ve gotten now that there are no restrictions [on] travel or education.”
Though reunification took place two decades ago, differences between the two regions are still evident, and certain stereotypes still prevail in people’s minds, according to Glootz. For example, West Germany is still visibly more affluent than its Eastern counterpart, and many West Germans question the appropriateness of subsidizing infrastructure development in East Germany, he said.
“The point of equality hasn’t been reached yet, and even though there’s been a lot of progress, living standards and education are still different, and they’re still the basis for conflict,” Glootz said.
Prior to his appearance on TV, Glootz said he put a considerable amount of thought into what he would contribute to the show—particularly since as a Harvard student representing his generation from East Germany, many eyes would be on him.
“I’ve not been that nervous about appearing on national TV, but I feel like I’m going to be. It’s a lot of responsibility to be chosen to represent such a large group of people,” Glootz said. “The show really forced me to think about these issues more—whether we’ve truly unified in our minds, or if it’s just on paper.”
Alongside Glootz appeared speakers who lived through different eras of recent German history: Wolfgang Böhmer, minister-president of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt; Clemens Meyer, an award-winning German author; and Joachim Gauck, a human rights activist and former German presidential candidate.
Before leaving, Glootz said he was really looking forward to spending a few days at home with his family on a farm near the TV station.
Iris Glootz, his mother, said she was very proud that her son was invited to speak alongside such famous personalities.
“[Glootz] can show to all the young people over here that everyone can take matters into his or her own hands and that the realization of dreams is worth all the hard work. Everyone can go for his or her own dreams independent of the social circumstances,” she wrote in an e-mail from Germany.
—Staff writer Helen X. Yang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.