THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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By Kestutis J. Eidukonis, VilNews CEO
Just prior to my joining VilNews, I was elected as a Board Member to the Lithuanian American Community (LAC) representing Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah in the Western District.
According to the LAC web page;
"Since its founding in 1951, LAC has sought to preserve the Lithuanian cultural identity for future generations. LAC is also in the forefront of fostering the growth of the democratic institutions of the country of our heritage and of assisting Lithuania in numerous other ways.
The Lithuanian American Community, Inc. has about 60 local chapters in 27 states and the District of Columbia. We encourage entrepreneurial individuals to form new LAC chapters where there presently are none.
Use the map to locate a LAC district. Then, click to learn more about
local chapters, events, parishes, schools, and more!
The Lithuanian American Community:
- organizes educational, cultural, religious, community, social, and sports activities,
- works in close cooperation with Lithuanian institutions, businesses and organizations,
- promotes Lithuanian culture in the U.S. and provides information to Americans about Lithuania,
- works to safeguard human and civic rights,
- actively supports strengthening democracy and economic reform in Lithuania,
- fosters interaction among Lithuanians within the United States and around the world.
The Lithuanian American Community (LAC) offers Americans of Lithuanian heritage (about 800,000) an organizational structure that enables them to:
I had been semi-active with the Arizona Lithuanian American Community of Arizona having once served as VP for NATO affairs and VP for Encouraging Investment in Lithuania. But the LAC to me was a big impersonal organization that our local community sent part of our dues to and did nothing more. I agreed to run because my good friends Dr. Rimantas Vaitkus -- Former Board Member and one time Head of the Arizona Lithuanian American Community and Dr. Stacys Vanagunas previous Board Member -- managed to convince me that I would be the right person for the job and thought that I could do some good by being on the board. With a little skepticism, I agreed. The elections took place and I got elected; I ran unopposed but could have lost the seat for our region if I did not get enough votes.
This last weekend, September 28-30th, I and the other 60 members of the Board gathered together for our annual Board Meeting. I expected a lot of talk, arguments and fights and wasn't quite sure what would be accomplished.
I was very pleasantly surprised. The meetings were very professionally run by Juozas Polikaitis, the President of the Presidium, Arvydas Barzdukas, and Secretary, Loretta Timukiene. For the most part, we stuck to the points outlined in the proposed agenda.
The first day started out with registration, and a session for Newbies conducted by board member, Terese Genciene. After this session we got right down to business. During the opening session, US and Lithuanian Hymns were sung, and there was an invocation and prayers for departed members. This was followed by a whirlwind of past business, rule changes, reports, appointment of nominating committees, and vote counting committees, followed by reports from all the different officers.
For those who are wondering on how LAC functions, I will try to explain:
The Board consists of 60 elected members who are picked by their respective regions plus the ten heads of the regions who attend ex-officio. (See http://www.lithuanian-american.org/main/about-lac/overview for a breakdown on the regions and who the representatives are.) The members are elected for three year terms and are required to attend yearly meetings at their own expense. The meeting places vary; regions agree during the session to sponsor the meetings. This year it was the Atlanta Chapter, last year was Elizabeth, New Jersey, and next year's session will be in Detroit, Michigan.
During the meeting the members were broken down into committees with every member getting put on the committee of his choice. The different committees are:
1. Political and Public Affairs
5. Organizational Affairs
6. Social Affairs
8. Religious Affairs
10. Rules and Regulations
The committees met and elected chairs and secretaries. The job of the committees is to provide guidelines and recommendations to the board and executive committees. All of the guidelines and recommendations are then voted on by the entire board.
The board also elected a President, Krasto Valdybos Pirmininke, who then picked her staff. The staff corresponds to the above mentioned committees with a few additions such as the Secretary, VP of Operations, Treasurer, VP of Archival Affairs, VP of Special Projects, VP of Information, etc. This year the board elected Sigita Simkuviene-Rosen as President. VilNews readers can expect a future article from Sigita outling her goals for LAC.
The board also held an election for the Court of Honor where all disputes and complaints are resolved.
This board will hopefully not be utilized. Last year three complaints were received and resolved by the board without any major problem.
The board also elected a committee which is required by its charter to meet with members of the Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) to present them with suggestions and recommendations from the LAC board. Dr. John Prunskis, Regina Narusiene and I were elected to this committee. We are required to travel to Lithuania two times per year (at our own expense) and meet with our Seimas Counterpart Committee. I will write another article about what we plan to present to the Seimas in the very near future.
Needless to say the sessions were long, sometimes heated, but always very polite. A lot of ideas were presented, and I invite members of the board to submit their own articles and opinions to VilNews.
It was not all work and no play. We would adjourn for dinner around 7:00 PM where we even had Southern Fried Kugelis prepared by a Jamaican Chef!
We also had some entertainment in the form of wonderful Lithuanian Expat, Violeta Leskyte Cucchiara, an actress and an accomplished singer composer who entertained us with her songs.
On the final night we were very fortunate to have the cultural program done by BIRU BAR a capella from Indianapolis, Indiana. This fine group got everyone dancing and singing to traditional Lithuanian folk music.
The meeting was also attended by the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, Audronis Azubalis; the Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States, Zygimantas Pavilionis; the Council General to New York , Valdemaras Sarapinas; the Director of the Department for Overseas Lithuanians in the Foreign Ministry, Arvydas Daunoravicius; and the Cultural Attache, Evaldas Stankevicius. All of these honored guests were given an opportunity to put forth their vision for American Lithuanian relations.
Normally the President of Lithuania sends the Lithuanian Community a greeting letter, but due to the fact that she sent the Lithuanian Foreign Minister to the meeting, no greetings were received from Dalia Grybauskaite.
The meeting woke me up to how much good the Lithuanian American Community does. I was unaware of how much money and effort is spent on education and other activities by the LAC. I am very pleased and proud to be part of this wonderful organization. I invite others in LAC to send in their articles and impressions.
VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editors: editor@VilNews.com.
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