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European Union Ambassador to U.S. visits DSU

April 13, 2018

Citizens of the European Union (EU) speak many different languages, but lack of a common language is not a hinderance to unity among the 28 member states in the international entity, said Dr. David O’Sullivan, the EU Ambassador to the United States.

“Not everyone has to speak the same language,” he said at a public forum at Dakota State University, “you have to be able to communicate.” O’Sullivan’s visit to DSU allowed him to communicate with many South Dakotans at a series of meetings and forums on April 9.

“The ambassador was very good at explaining the similarities and differences in the operation of our United States and the member States of the European Union,” said Madison’s mayor Roy Lindsay.

O’Sullivan, a native of Dublin, Ireland, also fielded questions on global topics including tariffs and China, dealings with Russia, the possibility of Turkey joining the EU, and the shared roles between the EU and NATO. He also discussed cyber security and privacy issues at a forum with faculty, staff, and students.

“The cyber work at DSU is something I haven’t seen anywhere else,” he said. “I’m terribly impressed with what you’re doing here, training a whole new generation of young people.”

Dr. Sirje Kiin, a Madison resident who is a native of Estonia, said, “It was an important visit to create future contacts between U.S. colleges and European colleges and other institutions about cyber security, because this is a world-wide problem, not just an issue for one or a few countries.”

DSU President José-Marie Griffiths had invited the ambassador so that DSU students and the community would be exposed to another part of the world that many people don’t necessarily know anything about. “That’s an important lesson for our students,” she said.

Several students in DSU’s General Beadle Honors Program met with the ambassador for a question and answer session, discussing issues such as global economic policies and territorial disputes with the South China Sea islands.

“In a day where we too often seek to simplify and reduce international events, his visit was an important reminder that the world is a very complex place and that real lasting solutions require statesmen and women who can move beyond the simplistic to see nuance and sophistication,” said Dr. Kurt Kemper, professor in the College of Arts and Sciences. Kemper is director of the General Beadle Honors Program.

College of Education Dean Crystal Pauli was able to join several of the sessions and learned something from each. 

“I am always interested in school systems and found it intriguing that students from one country are able to attend university in other countries, and their education is recognized in a universal way across boundaries.”

Registrar Kathy Callies was moved by the Ambassador’s comment about peace in Europe. “I was taken by his comments of Europe’s sensitivity to the cost of events such as World War I, World War II, and the Holocaust.” These historical events influence the EU’s approach to freedom of speech and privacy, she said, and frames their thinking. “The EU brings people to the table instead of to the battlefield to settle differences.”

O’Sullivan said, “The key message is respect for national identity,” and that respect is important both within the EU, and with countries outside the organization.

“Ambassador O’Sullivan’s emphasis of the size and importance of the EU – US trade relationship was a powerful reminder of how important each is to the other’s economic success and prosperity,” said Dr. Jack Walters, professor of business at DSU.

“That’s what the EU is all about,” O’Sullivan said, “building something for the future.”

Pauli said, “I hope we are able to host more events like this at DSU. It really makes the world seem a smaller place.”