The Halle Exchange
In 1998, ATC and FFB joined to begin an exchange program. Through this program, young people from both cultural backgrounds experience and evaluate each other’s cultures, norms, work environments, and systems of technical education. They live, learn, and work together to foster global understanding and prepare for a world without borders.
n August 28, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave a 17-minute speech that changed the world. In “I Have a Dream,” he challenged America to be a better society- one where justice, equality and brotherhood were extended to men, women, and children of all races, creeds, and colors. While we do not live in a perfect nation, we have come very far from a past that was laced with racism, fear, and hatred.
Although the two institutions are more than 4,600 miles apart, they are forever connected by their common commitment to community and civic engagement. College administrators saw 2013 as an opportunity to broaden the scope of the exchange by having participants celebrate the resilience of their ancestors by examining the impact that civil and human rights movements have had on their respective cultures and learning environments.
Today, students at Atlanta Technical College (ATC) come from more than sixty nations to the southwest Atlanta campus to study side-by-side, to prepare for careers that will allow them to improve the situation of their families and communities. Like their American counterparts, the students at Felix-Fechenbach Berufskolleg (FFB) in Detmold, Germany, are proverbial phoenixes rising from the ashes. They, too, reflect back on a history that was shrouded in hatred, racism, and darkness learning from their past so that the racist atrocities of the twentieth century will never be repeated. These students are the figurative sons and daughters of Felix Fechenbach, a German-Jewish political activist who was murdered by the Nazis. They participate in intercontinental learning experiences, aiming to become citizens of the world, using their time and talents to leave a positive footprint.
During the American leg of the exchange, a trip to Washington, DC, was added to the itinerary. The Halle participants visited the United States Capitol Building, the Smithsonian, the White House, and the various national memorials dedicated to Dr. King, Thomas Jefferson, and the Veterans of foreign wars, among others. Then, on a frigid day in early February, almost 50 years after the “I Have a Dream,” speech students from ATC and FFB visited the Lincoln Memorial and stood together on the same steps where Dr. King delivered the speech that so impacted the world. These young people are the dream keepers, and, as Dr. King forecasted, they are reaching across racial and cultural divides to build bridges of cooperation, friendship, and peace.