On Friday, November 4, 2022, the John McCloy Transatlantic Forum was officially inaugurated before a full auditorium in the lecture hall of the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften. The forum is named after John J. McCloy, who served as U.S. High Commissioner in Frankfurt from 1949 to 1952.
Present at the ceremony were Goethe University President Professor Enrico Schleiff, the Mayor of Bad Homburg Alexander W. Hetjes, and the forum’s initiators: Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften Director Professor Matthias Lutz-Bachmann, the spokespersons of the “Democratic Vistas” research area Professor Gunther Hellmann and Professor Johannes Völz, as well as the Bad Homburg-based forum sponsors Bernd von Maltzan and Felix Hufeld. Guest of honor was John J. McCloy II, son of U.S. High Commissioner John J. McCloy. The keynote was given by Professor Charles A. Kupchan of Georgetown University, an expert on U.S.-European relations, who served as special advisor to President Barack Obama and as a member of the U.S. Security Council. In his introductory remarks, Kupchan spoke about the West’s enduring strengths as well as its vulnerability in the world of tomorrow.
The forum’s goals
The new forum at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften brings together personalities from academia, politics, culture and business to discuss the significance of transatlantic relations in the crisis-ridden present. In fostering this dialog, it aims to help strengthen the form of democracy that has emerged in the transatlantic setting and develop it further in the context of a changing world order.
The forum’s name commemorates the Americans’ commitment to the development of German democracy in the postwar period. However, Johannes Völz, co-spokesman of the related research focus “Democratic Vistas,” emphasized that “our aim is not to unreflectively revive the old transatlantic community of values.” That, Völz said, would be too short-sighted. While the Forum remains committed to the transatlantic idea, he said that nowadays it is important to examine Western democracies in their interconnectedness with a North-South and an East-West axis.
The new forum was initiated by Forschungskolleg director Matthias Lutz-Bachmann and the two research project spokespersons. Bernd von Maltzan accompanied and promoted the forum from the very beginning. In his words: “As [German] Foreign Minister Baerbock recently put it, it is extremely important now to use the ‘transatlantic moment’ to counter the current challenges threatening democracy. As someone who grew up in the postwar era and is deeply grateful to the Americans for their contribution to building German civil society, I would like to contribute to that cause by supporting the exchange of ideas among scholars and policymakers at the John McCloy Transatlantic Forum.”
Future forum and research focus activities have already received commitments for funding, meaning democracy researchers will be able to come to the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften for guest visits as early as fall 2023 to contribute to the forum and its research focus.
Forum namesake John J. McCloy lived in Bad Homburg.
John J. McCloy served as American High Commissioner in Frankfurt from 1949 to 1952 and lived with his family in “Haus Hohenbuchen” on the edge of Bad Homburg’s “Kurpark”, the spa gardens. His son, John J. McCloy II, now almost 85 years old, has vivid and fond memories of the years he spent there as a youth. In his speech at the forum’s opening, he emphasized that naming it after his father was a great honor and privilege for him. After all, he added, the forum builds on his parents’ firm conviction that culture, science, education and social commitment are crucial building blocks for the development of democratic societies. His mother, for example, was known throughout Bad Homburg and beyond for her social commitment as well as for the events she organized. Bad Homburg Mayor Alexander Hetjes presented the guest of honor with a large volume of photographs on the history of Bad Homburg, saying, “The name of John J. McCloy and his wife Ellen enjoys a very good reputation in Bad Homburg to this day.”