The Orlando night club shooting occurred in the middle of the night on June 12, as we, the Key 50 Executive MPA students, were traveling to Brussels for the week of E.U. engagements. By the time we had our first meeting on Monday with Jerry Sheridan, Professor of the Key Abroad Program in Brussels, the news was coming in of the horrific massacre, the worst since September 11, 2001. That evening outside our hotel in downtown Brussels, people had already started a vigil in front of the former arts theater, with a sign that simply said “From Brussels with Love." That was a moment when we felt both vulnerable and welcome. This was a devastating way to start our E.U. week, but it highlighted and emphasized the importance of transnational collaboration that the E.U. and the United States has enjoyed since the E.U.’s formation in 1952. Each directorate general (D.G.) and their staff we visited expressed that even during trying times, such as the Orlando Shooting, the attacks in Paris, the immigration crisis, and the emerging threats that aim to strike fear in all of our citizens, we are stronger together rather than divided.
Our week took us to The Director of Press, Communications, and Protocol at The Committee of Regions, to The General Secretariat of Legal Service at The Council of the E.U., to The Director of Institutional Affairs of the E.U. Commission. We finished our week with the D.G. of Education and Culture, where Mr. Jens Nymand-Christensen spoke about the importance of education and its ever-evolving challenges of relevant professional skills, the importance of “soft skills” where a successful technical background is important, but to be successful in today’s global workplace, team building is extremely relevant when conducting talent management. He spoke about the changing environment of borders, where the traditional borders of post-World War I were important considerations, but the cultural and religious borders were becoming ever-increasingly important. The immigration crisis in the E.U. highlighted the challenges and the importance of strong, passionate and committed public managers in our institutions.
What American University’s Key Executive Leadership Programs offers is the opportunity for Federal Government executives to venture out of our comfort zones and to explore our strengths and opportunities for more transparent and authentic leaders. Leaders are at every level of our work environment, and if we take the time to be inquisitive about our team members as managers and leaders, we are able to foster trust and communication throughout our organizations.
During our Brussels engagement, it was immediately apparent that the E.U. Directorates are some of the most passionate public servants in the world, dedicated to the ideals of democracy and a free and open society and that our diversity is what strengthens us. We must continue to strive to be thoughtful and authentic public managers who foster a learning climate and recognize that public servants, both in the E.U and the United States, share many common bonds and that our unity is our greatest strength.