Berlin Wall provides lessons at Kennesaw State

By Laura Diamond The Atlanta Journal-Constitution   Some students rush by the slab of…

Georgia (Nov 6, 2009)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Some students rush by the slab of concrete near Kennesaw State University's social sciences building without stopping to take a look.
Those who notice the nearly 10 feet tall pillar lean in for a closer look. They inspect the pockmarks and overlapping graffiti, which include a vibrant yellow smiling sun. Some take pictures of themselves standing next to the giant piece of wall and post them on Facebook.
The students know the 2.7 ton structure is a piece of the Berlin Wall, which for more than 25 years kept East Germans from fleeing to the West. But some struggle to explain its significance.
"I don't know the meaning of all of it," freshman Taylor Zorzi, 19, said. "I know it is historical and deals with life after World War II. And I do know that it's cool that we have it on campus."
Former State Senator Chuck Clay loaned the structure to Kennesaw State, which placed it at its current spot a few months ago. A plaque nearby explains the wall's importance and how it came to arrive at the north Cobb university.
Clay received the slab about seven years ago during a trip to Germany. It was a gift to honor his grandfather, Gen. Lucius D. Clay of Marietta, who commanded American forces in Europe after World War II and organized the Berlin airlift.
"I like the idea that people who are studying history can see this piece of history and put their hands on it," Clay said. "I want people to understand that this wall, which they can see is just a few inches thick, divided and isolated people. It reminds people of what tyranny looks like."
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which symbolized the boundary between democracy and communism during the Cold War. On Nov. 9, 1989, after weeks of civil unrest, the East German government allowed its citizens to enter West Berlin. Crowds climbed the wall and people on both sides tore it down over the next few weeks.
Many college students weren't born when the wall tumbled.
"I know it is historically important but it is not hugely significant in my life," freshman Lee Price said. Still, the 18-year-old correctly said that the wall  "symbolizes the fall of communism, I suppose."
Junior Mary Block studied the Berlin Wall and saw pictures and video of people knocking it down. She knew its fall allowed for German reunification.
"The story of how people knocked it down is really inspirational," Block, 21, said as she gazed at the piece. "When I look at it I see revolution and change and people standing up and coming together."
Junior Ashley Cortez said students who are familiar with the wall point it out to one another.
"At first you may not really pay that much attention to it, but once you realize what it is and really come to understand what it means you understand how powerful it is," the 20-year-old said. "It makes you want to learn more."


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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit