Seminar Goes Straight to the Source
In most seminars students read
salient scholarship on the topic at hand and discuss what
However, in the spring presidential
seminar, Legends of the Fall (and Rise): Japan and Germany
as Visions of the Future (PRS 327), taught by Dennis Yasutomo,
professor of government, and Joe McVeigh, professor of German,
students had a chance to take their questions right to the
Students in the presidential seminar PRS 327 prepare
to board the bus to New York City on April 5.
Students, and Professor Yasutomo (seated at far end
of table) meet with Florian Laudi (standing), First Secretary
of the Permanent German Mission to the U.N.
The seminar’s discussion of the rise of Germany and Japan
since World War II and the countries’ current status in the
world started on campus in the first half of the semester,
then traveled to New York earlier this month, where students
visited the Japanese and German Permanent Missions to the
A couple of nights before heading
for New York, students discussed what topics they thought
would be of most interest to raise at the meetings. Then,
at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, April 5, it was off to New York
by chartered bus to engage their diplomatic counterparts
with probing questions and poignant comments.
The group first
met with Florian Laudi, First Secretary of the Permanent
German Mission to the U.N., for a two-hour session, with
discussion ranging from German energy policy and the question
of German national identity within the context of the European
Union, to halting the spread of weapons of mass destruction
and small arms worldwide.
Afterward, Laudi joined students
and their professors for lunch in the mission cafeteria,
where the discussion continued.
In the afternoon, the group
met with Tomoaki Ishigaki, Counselor at the Japanese Permanent
Mission and a former student of Yasutomo’s, for a 90-minute back-and-forth discussion
touching upon many of the political, economic and cultural
factors that have shaped Japan’s profile in recent years.
Questions ranged from energy policy in light of the recent
nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima (Japan) and relations with
North Korea to Japan’s current debate on the use of its military
forces in multilateral peacekeeping efforts.
questions by the students at both of these sessions were
part of the seminar’s larger discourse as to whether the
rise of these two nations after WWII offers a “vision” or
model of “soft power superpowers,” or whether both nations
have taken a separate trajectory toward “normalcy” in recent