Letter from Mr. Lorentzen

To All Those GAPPs '97 From HHG:

My initial impulse was to write this contribution to your graduation auf Deutsch, but then the 'teacher' in me decided to exercise your comprehension skills even to the bitter end. I realize this means one last English assignment, but, so ist es nun einmal, wenn ein Lehrer mitspielt!

When I reflect on your arrival in Portland/Vancouver, I remember that I didn't know at all what to expect. In short order, I found out that the group was lively, friendly, and very curious. But then there's always a 'honeymoon' period in such situations, and as you gathered experiences your natural critical faculties emerged, and I was able to see many of you as real people with strong opinions, feelings and keen intelligence.

Your experience particularly in our Columbia River High School gave many of you insight into the realities, both positive and negative, of the American public education system. You saw clearly the differences between the university preparation programs (for example, I.B. or International Baccalaureate) and the regular High School curriculum and teachers. You learned that in the U.S. we don't often separate university-bound students from vocational students. And you saw the difficulties as well as the interesting classroom situations that creates.

One of my favorite memories of your visit was the final party held at Clark College. Your creativity and literary skills (those wonderful little skits), your musical and vocal talents all impressed me deeply. I must also say that your visible respect for me and your willingness to embrace me as your host was more than kind and I appreciated it greatly.

And now you are at the end of your Gymnasium experience, and in part it's the end of your childhood. The Abitur is, in my mind, a kind of modern replacement for a more primitive 'rite of passage' from childhood to adulthood. It demands your greatest concentration. It demands that each of you shows what you are made of...what your character is. To that result, I wish you all the absolute best of luck and the courage to do your utter best in your examinations.

It isn't necessarily a platitude to say that you are the future of Europe and, having met you, I can honestly say that the future seems to be in good hands. I hope to see many of you again someday. Perhaps I'll see some of you on the international scene in government or the arts. But whatever you do after the Abitur and University, may you find happiness and success on your terms.

Congratulations and All the Best,

Mr. Gary Lorentzen, German Teacher
Columbia River High School, your Sister School
Vancouver WA USA