G20 Follow-Up

On July 15th, members of the SPD, SPE and Democrats Abroad came together and were joined by others to discuss G20 topics and politics in general at the SPD's rooms in Eimsbüttel.  It was an opportunity to hear from some very interesting people, all coming from their own unique perspectives, and take part in thought-provoking discussion.  Members from the cast of "Neuland" also performed scenes from the Julia Hart's amazing show.  All in all, it was a unique opportunity to look at the state of our world, and what we can do to make a difference.  We hope to hold more such events in the future.

Topics & Panelists/Moderators:

Think Global, Act Local:  Perspektiven wirtschaftlicher Nachhaltigkeit und konstruktiver Entwicklungshilfe
- Florian Staudt - SPE Hamburg (Moderator)
- Marina Pasquali - International Relations Analyst
- Karsten Weitzenegger - Vorsitzender Society for International Development e. V.
- Prof. Dr. h.c. Christa Randzio-Plath - Vorsitzende Marie-Schlei-Verein e. V.
- Madhu Singh, Senior programme specialist, UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning

Politics in the 21st Century:  Disillusionment, Animosity and Fatigue
- Evelyn Fyffe-Mathiesen & Marc Castagnera - DA Hamburg (Moderators)
Julia Hart - Director of "NEULAND"
- Chesney McKinley-Severance - DA Hamburg Social Media Lead
- Andrew Sola, Ph.D. - Associate Professor UMUC

article & pictures by Marc Castagnera


G20 Event in Stadtpark

On July 8th, while the G20 was underway at the city's Messehallen, DA Hamburg set up shop in Stadtpark to ask Americans, Germans, and citizens of the rest of the world what they have to say about social democracy and the topics being discussed at the summit.  The goal was to collect material for the blog , as well as G20-specific interviews to be put together in a special format.  We would like to thank everyone who stopped by and took part.  The city of Hamburg suffered a great deal of destruction and negative experiences over the G20 weekend, but this was a positive, creative one, the results of which will help in spreading the word about democratic values.

article by Marc Castagnera, pictures by Eric Shambroom & Chesney McKinley-Severance


4 July, 2017 at The Bird in Hamburg

What would the 4 th of July be without a juicy hamburger and a cold beer?  Fifteen of us turned up at
The Bird in St. Pauli for what the majority (in fact, everyone I asked) agreed was the best burger in
Hamburg.  If we came for the beef, we stayed for the conversation.  It was a pleasure to catch up
with so many members we had not seen for a long time, including a couple just passing through
the city and looking for company on this, one of the two iconic American holidays.

As a member who could not attend attested, “it is sometimes hard to hold onto traditions when you
have to go to school and work as usual."  All the more so, we are grateful to those who came, some
from great distances, to share good food and interesting political conversations around the table in
this friendly restaurant on our national day.

Text and photos by Maryann Schmunk



Some eight thousand persons braved the fickle wet weather to gather at the Hamburg Rathaus on Sunday, 4 June for the opening protest march of the G20 week. Organized by several political parties and non-governmental organizations such as Greenpeace, Oxfam and World Wildlife Fund, its purpose was to lay out a series of demands for G20 heads of state, chief among them: 1) Protecting the environment by adhering to the limits set by the Paris Accord and ending the production of coal entirely; 2) Making treaties and rules for trade that benefit all; and 3) Enacting measures to close the ever widening gap the separates the very rich from the poor all around the world. The loudest applause however was reserved for those who vowed to stand up to the isolationist, anti-immigrant tendencies and the climate change deniers emanating from our own country.

Although this event was not organized by Democrats Abroad, several of us were pleased to take part in solidarity with issues that concern Democrats the world over. At least for the space of a few hours, that hopeless feeling disappeared in the company of so many different people, from all walks of life, melded together under a sea of wildly colorful banners, waves of floating slogans. Then the scores of demonstrating boats paddling down the Alster appeared, along with the sun, and the marchers moved forward with their message—Planet Earth first!

article by Maryann Schmunk, picture by Eric Shambroom


G20 in Hamburg

First, we want to thank everyone who took part in our G20 event surveys, and everyone who invested even more time and energy in trying to put together a large-scale DA event parallel to the G20 in Hamburg.  We have, unfortunately, decided against going forward with this kind of an event at that time.  This is largely due to security restrictions throughout the city at that time, and a lack of available venues and hotels.

Please know that your ideas and efforts will not go to waste.  We will use what we have learned for a future event (or events) at a later date, for which we will have the necessary time to prepare.

We are also still looking to hold two smaller events, one on the G20 weekend and one on the weekend after.  If you will be in Hamburg on either, please let us know at [email protected] !


Uncharted Territory



Theater performance directed by Julia Hart.

Lichthof Theatre, 10-11 June 2017


How did you feel after the election and how does one cope with the anger, disappointment, fear, and hopelessness experienced by millions of Americans after the election in November?  Form a theater group was the therapy offered by director Julia Hart, who brought together nine women (many from Democrats Abroad Hamburg), both experienced and novices to the stage, to express their feelings and those of anonymous others in cleverly choreographed sequences probing emotions from self-criticism to despair.


The audience immediately became more than just spectators, and in fact remained for an hour after the performance to ask questions and share information with the cast.  Among the many interesting observations were the following:

. The cast shed tears during rehearsals while working through the deep hurt they felt, and shared true stories, but for theatrical purposes, rotated roles so that most often they were not relating their own experiences, but those of others.

. They spoke of deep political/emotional rifts within their own families which may not be repairable.

. They doubted that they would be so free to speak about these feelings right now in the States, what with the deep divisions that remain.

. They had to endure the taut “you don´t have any idea how it is” from those stateside, which only increased their feelings of powerlessness.


As a German member of the capacity audience concluded, “You touched me, made me laugh, and feel the pain.”  If you missed these two performances, watch this space for more information about a possible extra performance during the first week of July.

Article  by Maryann Schmunk

Photo by Julie Silvera


Political Book Club - Hillbilly Elegy

Democrats Abroad Hamburg Political Book Club Meeting at

Mathilde, Literatur und Café, 4 June 2017

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance


Even after nearly three hours of discussion, the important themes and lessons learned from Hillbilly Elegy were not yet exhausted, but we were!  J.D. Vance´s autobiography is direct, shocking, graphic, heartwarming, optimistic and depressing by turns, but without a doubt, worth reading.  It offers an illuminating comparison to our last book, Joe Bageant´s Deer Hunting with Jesus, written more than ten years earlier, but dealing with the same regional sub-culture, descendants of Scots-Irish immigrants who settled in the Appalachians in the 18th century.  Both authors detail the vicious cycle of violence and self-destructive behavior, unemployment, alcohol and drugs that plague these “hill people”, who are nonetheless fiercely devoted to their kin and culture.  “Our elegy is a sociological one, yes, but it is also about psychology and community and culture and faith,” writes Vance.


Bageant´s book was divided into chapters that dealt with themes aimed at offering prescient policy tips to Democrats and trying to explain this largely overlooked population who many years later, catapulted Trump to victory.  Vance, on the other hand, illustrates his lessons learned by detailing the story of his life:  coping with his mother´s five husbands, constant moves and drug addictions, plus his birth father´s retreat into evangelicalism.   Along the way he helplessly observes the increasing isolation and disintegration of this working class community.  It is only a stint in the marines which breaks the seemingly downward spiral of his life because it instills in him the discipline and self-respect required to take control of his destiny.  In the end, both authors managed to escape their seemingly predestined fate in a “world of truly irrational behavior” as Vance puts it, in the only way they saw possible—by leaving—with all the conflicting emotions that entailed.


Now a Yale law school graduate, Vance credits his grandmother with providing the only constant support and stability in his troubled youth, plus a certain amount of luck in finding guidance at crucial stages of his life, with pulling him from the abyss which enveloped so many of the people he grew up with.  It is a fascinating story, made all the more poignant today by the fact that these people who feel abandoned by politicians, distrustful of the news media, and jealous of elites, are nevertheless the ones who propelled Trump into office in the Rust Belt states.  We had to ask ourselves if it is at all possible to overcome the gap that separates us; to develop policies locally that address their specific problems; to find democratic candidates that they can relate to—that look like them and talk like them.  We all agreed that local government and social services had largely failed this community, and that most were never given the tools to succeed in schools lacking well trained teachers and counselors who could prepare and motivate students first for life, and then for further education whether it is college or vocational schools, and compensate for a lack of role models in the community.  A mixture of students—from every economic class—would also be helpful in this regard.


Democrats, for their part, must engage in local politics and a listening tour, although Vance insists that in the end, it is his hillbillies who should stop blaming the President for their problems and start trying to do something themselves.  Also suggested, by our group, was the idea of developing a civilian corps which deploys trained locals to help others from their communities to solve problems of infrastructure, job retraining, even parenting, without taking away their pride.  Vance himself has recently given up his comfortable life in California to return to Ohio to start a non-profit organization to help the people he identifies with to get ahead in life just as his wife and kindly mentors enabled him.  “Public policy can help, but there is no government that can fix these problems for us” he concludes.


We hope to schedule another meet-up this month for those who could not make it and because there is still so much food for thought in this book even for those of us who met this weekend.  Please join us!  (Mail us at [email protected] and we will notify you when a date is set.)

Article and photo by Maryann Schmunk



There is no Alternative to Science!

Gale force winds, sleet and freezing temperatures could not stop some 2,000 people from turning out to support the March for Science on Earth Day, 22 April.  Among them were many members of Democrats Abroad from Hamburg and northern Germany.  Science had its place in the sun though, as various speakers extolled the virtues of truth and fact based research and communication as the only weapon against the spreading confusion of "alternative facts".

Article by Maryann Schmunk

Photos by Maryann Schmunk and Chesney McKinley Severance


Political Book Club


Political Book Club—first meeting April 9, 2017


Although many of us were only half way through the book, all of us were impressed with Deer Hunting with Jesus.  Written by Joe Bageant in 2007, this compelling non-fiction narrative is eerily prescient.  Not only did Bageant predict the real estate crash of 2008 and its consequences, but he offers an analysis of alternative facts and deplores the inability of democrats to reach out to those who became Trump voters 10 years later.


Chesney, who suggested the book and started the group, welcomed the eight of us at a cozy table in Mathilde Literatur Café, then moderated the discussion.  Among the many insights gained about what the author terms the “working poor” in the town of his birth:


  • Quite apart from the constitution, guns are an inalienable part of their culture and very being.
  • Each individual alone must take responsibility for his life, with no “handouts” from the government.
  • If you have not succeeded, it can only be because of your inferiority—the wealthy deserve their elite status.
  • Their dependence for nearly all information, political and otherwise, is on conservative talk radio.
  •  Republicans have systematically infiltrated this society for more than thirty odd years, succeeding in dominating local politics from the school board on up.



The book is often shockingly blunt, especially when Bageant describes the “meanness at the heart of our Republic”, but it is clear that Democrats will have to dramatically change their approach to large segments of the American population in order to win future elections.  Reading books such as this one, is the first step to knowing and understanding our opponents, in order to reach out to them somehow. It may not be possible, but it is certainly worth a try.

Article  by Maryann Schmunk, photo by Chesney McKinley Severance


Hamburg was at the AGM in Berlin


The Annual General Meeting of the Democrats Abroad in Germany took place in Berlin from March 31 to April 2 and the Hamburg Chapter was strongly represented with 16 members - the most members from one chapter, after Berlin. It was a weekend spent with debate - sometimes heated, discussions and laughter. 

The AGM started on Friday already with the workshop „Looking forward - Sustainability in a Volunteer Organization“. Members of the Hamburg Chapter who attended the workshop will be reporting the results of this workshop this Sunday at our chapter meeting. It was followed by the Early Bird Dinner at the RED restaurant in the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. Other members started networking and getting to know the various candidates for the DA Germany positions.

The core work took place on Saturday. There were 6 hours of workshops interspersed with coffee breaks and lunch, in which members split up into six groups and worked out action plans for various issues. While flip charts and post-its dominated the meeting rooms, a silent discussion of important issues hung on the walls of the roof terrace, which was a popular refuge during the hot and sunny day.

The elections were an eventful and long process. It was the first time that chapters were able to participate live via internet or telephone. Unfortunately there was some disagreement about certain procedural rules. Congratulations to our newly elected officers! The new DA Germany leaders are found here. Shortly past 6 o’clock everyone was happy for the hour break before dinner. 

The highlight of the entire weekend was the gala dinner with Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend, Indiana as the keynote speaker. He gave a motivational speech stressing freedom, family, fairness and future. Quaide Williams rewarded a few members for exceptional accomplishments, of whom our own Pam Cory was one of the recipients for her excellent work as our former chair. After a few glasses of wine and a fund-raising raffle, karaoke wrapped the evening up in a not quite so melodious but entertaining fashion.

On Sunday, while many members explored Berlin or headed home, the Ex-Com meeting took place. We’re looking forward to hearing about the takeaways from this meeting on Sunday as well.

All in all, the AGM was useful to coordinate with members around Germany in moving forward. Specific ideas were born on the weekend and bonds among people with a common goal were strengthened. 


Article written by Cynthia Walther

Photos by Chesney McKinley-Severance and Cynthia Walther