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Nothing Seems Impossible Now

February 19, 1990

The changes under way in Eastern Europe are so momentous that, for most of us, genuine comprehension of their magnitude occurs only in small increments. We experienced one of them not long ago when an invitation from the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies at the Johns Hopkins University arrived in the mail.

On tasteful, understated stationery, it solicited our attendence at the sixth lecture in the Mars Distinguished Speaker Series. Topic: "Prospects for Reform in the German Democratic Republic." Speaker: Gregor Gysi, the elected chairman of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany--Party of Democratic Socialism, which is what the East German Communists now call themselves.

On the facing page was a brief biographical sketch of the fascinating Herr Gysi. He has, it reminded us, held his current post "since last November, when the (party) began its attempt at renewal. He also chaired the Bar Assn. of the GDR. As an attorney in private practice, he has over the past few years represented dissidents and human rights cases. Active also in the affairs of the Jewish community in Berlin (East), he will be coming to Washington to attend the National Prayer Breakfast."

Thus are all categories overthrown. There may somewhere be a person who envisioned the day when the Jewish civil-liberties lawyer at the head of the East German Communist Party would plan to drop by Johns Hopkins to deliver a few remarks after spending the morning at a prayer meeting--or that his visit would be canceled, as it was, because he had to stay home and get ready for an election, which itself was but a preface to German reunification. We've yet to meet that person, and frankly confess that we never thought we'd live to see a moment such as this. But like so many other people around this hopeful though uncertain world, we are very glad we did.

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