NEW ORLEANS – Sixteen years after first arriving in Louisiana to continue her legal studies at Tulane University, Susanne Veters is the state's new honorary consul for the Federal Republic of Germany.
Her new post is far from just a ceremonial title and, in fact, draws on many of the skills she's acquired through her profession, Veters, a labor and employment attorney with New Orleans law firm McGlinchey Stafford for the last five years, told the Louisiana Record.
Beyond their primary role to promote U.S.-German relations, German honorary consuls are permitted to assist U.S. and German citizens with a limited number of legal and consular issues pertaining to the European country.
They also participate in the state's consular corps, which currently comprises 59 career and honorary consulates representing countries from five different continents. The group meets once a month and coordinates ongoing activities.
"I'm looking forward to helping the German population here," Veters said. "I'd like to be a connection between my home country, Germany, and the U.S. and hopefully contribute to the friendship between the two countries."
Having spent her childhood in West Berlin, Veters was 15 when the Berlin Wall fell, the two Germanys were re-united and she and many of her fellow Germans, joined with onlookers throughout the world, were swept up in a wave of hope, determination and a renewed sense of personal freedom.
So, perhaps not surprisingly, "I was exposed to a lot of culture," she said, "and I always enjoyed the dialogue with other Germans, with other cultures."
Veters earned her law degree from Humboldt University School of Law in what was East Berlin, and then, thanks to a student ambassador scholarship she won from the Rotary Club, she ventured to Louisiana in 2000 to earn her Master of Laws degree from Tulane University, one of the only schools she could find that had a sports law specialization track.
It had long been her plan to return to Germany after earning her degree at Tulane and practice law in her old stomping grounds. But a funny thing happened during her school years in Louisiana: she fell in love with the area, in particular New Orleans.
"There were many things that I liked," she said, but what she found most striking about the area "was the friendliness of the people, the open-heartedness and open-mindedness of the people...just this happy-go-lucky, fun-loving, culturally rich city, " said Veters, whose absolute favorite regional dish is crawfish ettoufee, a dish found in both Cajun and Creole cuisines.
So, after passing the state bar here and going back to Berlin for a two-year apprenticeship necessary to practice law there, Veters returned to New Orleans and ended up practicing labor and employment law, since, ironically, although Tulane has an acclaimed sports law program, opportunities in sports law are scarce in the South.
Now married with an 8-year-old daughter, Verters looks forward to using her honorary consule post to teach those in her adopted home more about her native country, but also further explore the local German population, which is significant but not well-documented.
Much of the recent growth of Louisiana's German community was driven by the German wives of American servicemen who settled in the area after fighting overseas, said Veters.
Today, she said, the region's German population boasts "a lot of young people...with a very rich heritage."
So far, Veters said, her role as honorary consul has been very rewarding because "the people who come to me are so appreciative of what I do and how I help them."