Luxembourg’s Deputy Prime Minister Speaks at Leir Lecture

News Story: October 5, 2008

Deputy Prime Minister Jean Asselborn of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg addressed members of the Sacred Heart University community on Tuesday, September 23rd, in the Boardroom of the William H. Pitt Health and Recreation Center. As he had two years before, Mr. Asselborn presented the University’s annual Henry Leir Lecture while in this country for the opening of the United Nations.

In a wide-ranging discussion, Mr. Asselborn spoke of the “Global Geopolitical Climate: Current Realities and Future Directions.” He noted that the world’s most intractable questions demanded action by a community of nations since so many concerns are rightly called global in nature. He offered climate change as an example, noting it can affect agricultural production in neighboring countries, which in turn can lead to hunger, political unrest, radical discontent and even insurrection. Such concerns, he explained, are what might be named “problems without passport” since they have the capacity to travel the globe.

Mr. Asselborn, who is also his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Immigration, pointed out how rapidly the world we live in is changing. “Since World War II, the number of countries in the world has doubled, with 15 new nations in the old Soviet Union alone.” The Deputy Prime Minister returned repeatedly to the challenges confronting the Western World and Russia as they work out a new and very complicated relationship, and a number of questions from the floor touched on this theme.

Mr. Asselborn asserted that it was in the best interests of the U.S. to work with a united Europe through entities such as the European Union. It will not mean that every member of the Union will be in total harmony with the decisions of the central body, he explained, but on important issues, the nations of Europe can speak with authority and conviction. The good offices of the EU were helpful, he noted, in working to defuse the recent hostilities in Georgia following Russia’s invasion. The potential enlargement of that body should be undertaken with caution and great care, so that when a nation is accepted for membership, it promotes the prospects for peace both within that country and the EU as a whole.

“The experience of the European Union,” he said, “proves that multilateral diplomacy is best. The U.S. is Europe’s most important partner, and many challenges await us. Let us work them out together.”

The Leir Lecture celebrates the life and legacy of Henry Leir, a German native who fled from the Nazis for Luxembourg and then the United States. He never forgot the kindnesses of the people of Luxembourg, and in a life that spanned nearly a century, he supported numerous causes that assisted the citizens of both welcoming countries. Sacred Heart University presented Mr. Leir with an honorary doctorate in 1998. For the past 16 years, the University has sponsored the only American-accredited MBA program in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.