2017 RBFAA Annual Meeting

The 33rd Robert Bosch Foundation Alumni Association (RBFAA) Annual Meeting took place in Washington, D.C. from June 23-25, 2017. This year’s theme was “Media Under Fire: Media, Journalism, and Democracy in Transatlantic Relations”, and programming was designed to engage Bosch Fellowship alumni in a conversation about the media’s role in portraying current events not just at home in the United States but around the world at a time when everyone’s smart phone can display customized and targeted content. Over 100 alumni gathered in the U.S. capital to grapple with a number of questions related to the state of transatlantic relations and where they stand given the global pressures being exerted on democracies. Boschies also had a chance to reconnect with old friends from across the program’s history and meet some of the newest crop of fellows to join the alumni community.

The weekend started off on Friday afternoon with optional tours at National Public Radio (NPR) and Voice of America (VOA). Participants got to look inside the studios of these impressive networks and hear more about how they’ve adapted their operations to stay relevant in the 21st Century. This was followed by an evening reception at the home of Minister Holger Mahnicke, Head of the Culture and Communications Department at the German Embassy, himself a former Bosch Betreuer. Alumni had a relaxed and fun opportunity to catch up with one another, despite the typical D.C. heat.

Saturday’s activities began with an optional tour of the Newseum, which has a compelling display dedicated to the Berlin Wall and its representation in media throughout the decades. This was followed by the bulk of the day’s programming at the Airbus Experience Center on Pennsylvania Avenue. Alumni first heard from a panel of journalists, moderated by Mary Pflum Peterson (Bosch XV), who discussed the concept of “Media Under Fire” from a number of perspectives. The panelists included Abdülhamit Bilici, former Editor-in-Chief of the Turkish newspaper Zaman, Erin McPike, White House Correspondent for the Independent Journal Review, and Hadas Gold, Media and Politics Reporter for Politico. Over lunch, the discussion, moderated by Cristina Gonzalez (Bosch XXXII), shifted to an overview of the upcoming German elections with Ina Ruck, ARD Washington Bureau Chief, and Carsten von Nahmen, U.S. Correspondent for Deutsche Welle. Participants in the afternoon’s programming then had a chance to meet recently returned Bosch XXXIII fellows and learn about the latest initiatives of the Robert Bosch Foundation, including the Foundation’s new International Alumni Center. This was followed by the RBFAA business meeting.

The annual gala took place Saturday evening at the House of Sweden on the Georgetown waterfront. Attendees enjoyed refreshments on the roof overlooking the river, then proceeded inside for the dinner and keynote speech. Denis McDonough (Bosch XVI) received the 2017 Bosch Alumnus of the Year award in recognition of his contributions through years of government service, most recently serving as President Obama’s Chief of Staff. Denis delivered the evening’s keynote address, urging his fellow alumni to remain engaged in the conduct of transatlantic relations. The night also included a touching tribute to Fred Pieretti, a member of Bosch I who recently passed away, from his friend and classmate John Schmitz.

The weekend ended with a Sunday brunch – once again in the D.C. heat! – at Biergarten Haus, where alumni and their families were able to enjoy some Bier und Bretzeln together before going their separate ways.

That wraps up the 2017 Annual Meeting, and we hope to see you at next year’s event in Berlin!

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