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German ambassador to answer Vermonters’ questions

VERMONT — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders has invited all Vermonters to a special town hall meeting with German Ambassador Peter Wittig on Friday, Feb. 9, at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian-Universalist church in Burlington.
Ambassador Wittig will discuss current political events in Europe and his own country, as well as German domestic policy. Sanders said he always believed that it is important for Americans to learn about what goes on in other countries, both their successes and their failures.
“In that spirit, this will be a great opportunity for Vermonters to learn about how Germany — one of the world’s major economies — approaches higher education, job training, health care, taxation, climate change and the environment,” Sanders said. “It will also be interesting to learn about how they maintain their strong social safety net, and much more.”
Today, Germany provides a broad range of social benefits to workers and families that the United States does not — including paid family leave, paid vacation days, and generous early childhood education and tuition-free college.  How well do these systems work, how are they paid for, and how did they come about?  How does providing free college education help or hinder the German economy? All these are questions that Sanders hopes Ambassador Wittig will address.
“Much has been written recently about Vermont’s workforce shortage, and making sure young Vermonters have the skills they need to get good-paying jobs,” Sanders said. “Perhaps we can learn something from Germany’s acclaimed apprenticeship and career-oriented education programs.  Nearly half of German youth participate in one of the hundreds of occupation-specific certification programs, and many go on to enjoy job security in successful careers and earn middle-class wages.”
Another area that will be open for discussion will be sustainable energy. Germany’s national clean energy goals are very similar to Vermont’s: the country wants to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80-90 percent, and get 80 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050.  Observers say that the Germans are ahead of Vermonters in making progress toward these goals.
Sanders’s staff point that that significant investments in solar and wind over the past decade have enabled Germany to get 33 percent of its energy from renewable sources.
In terms of health care, like every other major country in the world, Germany guarantees universal coverage as a right of all citizens.
“While I personally support a different approach to guaranteeing health care for all, I’m guessing we can learn from hearing about how cost-effective their system is, whether people are happy with it, and how the government pays for it,” Sanders said in his invitation to Vermonters to come hear Ambassador Wittig.
“Please bring your own questions about Germany, and join in the discussion on Friday, Feb. 9, in Burlington,” Sanders concluded. “I hope to see you there.”

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