Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a pleasure for me to be here for your traditional Luxembourg Fest that has now taken on such a great and new dimension with your new Cultural Center!
So: Wëllkomm! at the inauguration of your and of our Luxembourg-American Cultural Center (LACC) that tells the story of friendship between the people of two countries and of a new development in our relationship.
This is a day you have been waiting for, and a day you can be proud of. What a great achievement: in a collective effort you have succeeded in building up a sustainable future for your heritage.
Let me begin by telling you a story, a story so many of your ancestors have lived through by travelling to the "New World" in the 19th century, a story of those you continue bearing in your memories: just imagine a woman, a man, a family, who very often had never even left their native village and they then affront such a brutal change while departing for a travel to a new continent. They left everything behind them, searching for a better life, but they were full of uncertainties.
Wasn't this a bit of what the initiators of this new Cultural and Scientific Center and Museum must have felt when they set out for this new journey? They are pioneers in search for new shores for your heritage, full of determination but at the same time also sometimes uncertain whether they would be able to make all this happen. And now we stand here all together, and we, visitors from abroad, from Luxembourg, from Europe, are full of admiration for your collective achievement, an achievement so many gave hand to and rallied upon.
This would have been utterly impossible without the long, determined and committed work, spreading over decades back, by those who began to take care and to preserve your common heritage and origins. This would have been impossible without the passionate work of all the Luxembourg historical societies throughout the USA, like the Luxembourg Society of Wisconsin and President Bea Krier-Wester, the Luxembourg Society from Rollingstone/Minnesota with Jean and Don Kalmes or Mary Nilles, the very active friends from Saint Donatus here present, those from Saint-Paul/Minneapolis, from Remsen, from Chicago, all the Luxembourg Historical societies, old and new ones, in the United States. Without them, the new impetus of this Center would have had no fertile ground to grow upon!
How many of our honorary consuls have contributed to this: Gerda and Don Hansen from Chicago who have performed wonders, Paul Heinerscheid, Robert Schaeffer and Kevin Ries, not to forget our Ambassador Jean-Paul Senninger. In Luxembourg a new awareness for Luxembourg heritage in the United States was triggered off nearly 30 years ago thanks to Rosch Krieps and people like Georges Calteux, Guy Thomas and Jean Ensch.
And if we can celebrate this new home for Luxembourg in America today, it is due again to some very determined and generous persons: nothing would have been possible without
- the decisive builder role and constant inspiration of Mike Ansay and Georges Calteux,
- the steadiness in work and input of Kevin Wester and Guy Dockendorf,
- the determination of the first President of the Luxembourg American Cultural Society Lloyd Croatt, promoting the idea and the project in a very decisive and inclusive way among all the societies, and the leading role of the present Chairman of the LACS, Dick Witry
- the sympathy and help from the different US authorities, the Village of Belgium, the State of Wisconsin,
- the constant support of the Luxembourg Government, the promise of my predecessors Minister Erna Hennicot-Schoepges and Minister François Biltgen, and my own determination to continue the project, to stand all political opposition and to find the money you had been promised,
- and last, but in no way least, the High Patronage of H.R.H. the Grand-Duke of Luxembourg who has shown his constant support to the project and who was here at the dedication ceremony last year.
When I first stood here on this ground, in spring 2006, it was still virgin, no excavators, no bulldozers yet. There was just the promise of this Center, and now, 4 years later, everything is finished and completed. So please allow me to congratulate everyone of you on behalf of the people of Luxembourg for this collective and outstanding achievement! It is your Center, it is your home, to all of you.
And this Museum is not just about the past. As I said in the beginning, I would like to tell a story: it is the story of your success. We all want this story to be a never ending story:
- This Research, Documentary and Cultural Center and Museum is also about the future! Make youth to become it their Center. Get young people interested and involved in the activities of the Center and in your heritage. Open it up to the new generations: you already do so, by implicating school classes, by your educational activities reaching out to high schools and universities, by projects that appeal to the "Internet-Generation". Get the social-media oriented young people use the Center as their own.
- Broaden out your base by adding the European dimension on to your research. May this Cultural Center become the window to the European Union Luxembourg is so embedded in and strongly committed to! The European Union is a natural part of Luxembourg's daily business. This can also be the case for the Luxembourg American Cultural Center, giving it new impulses, making it attractive for researchers from all over the US and bestowing upon it, beyond its legitimacy, a truly national if not international credibility.
This is my pledge. Be assured that I, as the Culture Minister of Luxembourg, intend to strongly support you in this approach and help you with a whole range of activities brought to life by artists, cultural actors and partners.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yes, this Center is clearly about the future! And the future has already started. Thanks to your collective efforts and inclusive networking, new Luxembourg historical or cultural societies have been founded these last years in various US towns and friends from all over the US gather here in and around New Luxembourg.
They do so because they have acknowledged that they can learn here something about their past, and that preserving the past goes beyond genealogy, but is about history, traditions and values and will address modern issues.
There is still more going on here: this is not just another museum on immigration to the US; this is also a scientific center on the evolution of the societies in our 2 countries, starting from immigration time of your forefathers up to today, not sticking to the sole yesterday. This is a living and lively center about real and actual life.
Modern Luxembourg has indeed changed a lot since the times your ancestors had left it: from the emigration land Luxembourg used to be, it has turned to a multicultural land of immigration: today, 43,1% of our resident population are of non-luxembourg nationality. They help us in our employment-intense economy, they enrich us by their personal, cultural and economic contribution. Immigration has always been, and will continue to be a source of richness: human beings bring with them their memories, their culture and their dignity - be it in 21st century Luxembourg, or be it the Americas of the 19th century and of today. Migration is the history of mankind!
And all of us present here share the common goal of giving our share to build a common humanity! This is what the Luxembourg American Cultural Center is all about and in which it participates actively in. Through culture and education, it is a tool for intercultural dialogue.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Such an intercultural dialogue has to be constructed and nurtured: it means in practice that we have to oppose all extremism, to confront and repudiate xenophobia, to refute the fallacy of an alleged "Clash of Civilisations" with the affirmative antithesis of the "Alliance of Civilisations". The tools we may use consist of discussion and dialogue, exchange and knowledge; they are the safest way to prevent conflicts, since they allow us to consider and understand each other’s position, in full respect of our cultural differences and diversities. We have, indeed, the positive obligation to work towards this dialogue with all the means at our disposal. The Luxembourg American Cultural Center is such a means to it.
The Constitution of UNESCO states it in a meaningful way, declaring that “since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed,"and that “the wide diffusion of culture, and the education of humanity for justice and liberty and peace are indispensable to the dignity of man and constitute a sacred duty which all the nations must fulfil in a spirit of mutual assistance and concern."
I believe our reunion here today must pay tribute to those who preceded us in constructing our peaceful societies and building bridges between our nations. It must also look forward to a future of continued exchange and cooperation. As such, the Luxembourg American Cultural Center is an excellent illustration of the noble principles that lie at the bottom of the intercultural dialogue we shall seek to promote.
It is with this open mindedness that your Cultural Center helps to shape the future of a common humanity. Carry on this beautiful and important legacy, which is a legacy of peace and respect, of immaterial values, to transmit it to future generations! This is what you have been seeking for, this is what you have achieved.
The Luxembourg American Cultural Center is not only about strong roots and growing leaves, it is also about planting new young trees!
My heartfelt congratulations to all of you, and thank you for your Center representing Luxembourg here in the United States of America!