On Friday 8 December 2023, the European School in Luxembourg-Kirchberg (Schola Europaea Luxembourg I) hosted the opening of an exhibition dedicated to John F. Kennedy (JFK).
Organised together with the US Embassy in Luxembourg with the support of the Deutsch-Amerikanische Institut (DAI) Saarland, this exhibition features a collection of (some rarely seen before) photographs of the 35th President of the United States. It forms part of a project undertaken by history students (secondary level) at the school and includes photographs from the DAI Saarland. The exhibition aims to raise awareness about the contributions that the Kennedy administration made in championing the self-determination of nations, regardless of their size, and his support for transatlantic unity and European integration.
At the invitation-only opening on Friday afternoon, European School Luxembourg I Director Martin Wedel described this exhibition as the starting point for future cooperation with the US Embassy in Luxembourg. He praised the efforts of the history students and teaching staff involved in this project, which also resulted in an explanatory booklet to accompany the exhibition. He delivered his address in English, German and French, reflecting the multilingualism of the school, and thanked all those who contributed to this project.
The US Ambassador to Luxembourg, Thomas "Tom" Barrett, said it was an honour to be involved in this "wonderful photo display". He explained how he had met with the Managing Director of DAI Saarland and the latter showed him photographs of John F. Kennedy - some of which the ambassador had never seen before. He recalled that the exhibition marks the 60th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a young leader at the time who "changed the way Americans looked at themselves and […] at the world". 2023 also marks the 70th anniversary of European School Luxembourg I, and the US Ambassador himself was celebrating a milestone birthday - the students and other guests later sang "Happy Birthday".
Ambassador Barrett noted how he had been a young boy when John F. Kennedy was President and spoke of how the loss of such a "great young leader" on 22 November 1963 left many Americans feeling as though they had "lost their innocence". He added that "60 years later, his legacy is as strong as ever." The US Ambassador reflected on the fact that we "tragically face some of the same issues" today as in John F. Kennedy's time. He highlighted the latter's "vision and desire, through diplomacy, friendship and alliances, to make a stronger and safer world" and emphasised that diplomacy, communication, finding common ground and respecting different cultures and people are the "cornerstone" of what the world needs more of today. He highlighted that "we are all different" but in many ways "we are all the same", adding that this offered hope for the future, just as this JFK exhibition "demonstrates hope too". He praised the students involved, as well as the education system in Luxembourg as a whole, particularly highlighting its multilingualism. "You have been givien a gift," he said, noting the power of communication and how this could be used to create a better world.
Three students subsequently thanked the US Ambassador and the US Embassy for giving them the chance to work on this project; they also thanked their school and their history teacher for his help and guidance. They explained how two classes had worked together on the project, with the exhibition looking at different stages of John F. Kennedy's life, from his youth and the development of his political career to his presidency. The exhibition and accompanying booklet also highlight the role of the Cold War, as researched and analysed by the participating students.
The speeches were followed by an impressive performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" by one student, as well as a reception and the opportunity for guests to explore the exhibition themselves.
The JFK exhibition is currently on display at the nursery school (École Maternelle) but will soon move to the secondary school building. It is not open to the public but European School students, parents and staff can admire and learn from it.