Thursday, January 23, 2014

Deputy Chief of Mission Silberstein Visits Alytus to Donate Books, Connect with Community

On January 17, Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Silberstein visited  the city of Alytus. Mr. Silberstein  met with the Vice-mayor of Alytus to discuss local Lithuanian-American projects and events. Alytus is the sister city of Rochester, NY, and one of the signature programs of this partnership is the virtual orchestra bridge which connects the Alytus Music School Youth Symphony Orchestra and the Hochstein Youth Symphony Orchestra. On February 2, the virtual “bridge” will connect the two orchestras for a live performance. In the education sphere, the Alytus College will host a U.S. Fulbright Scholar, the first college (as opposed to a university) in Lithuania to do so. Dr. Joseph Bulsys will teach Communication courses and develop curriculum in public speaking; work with Alytus College on academic projects; and establish a partnership between the Alytus college and SUNY-Geneseo.

During his visit, DCM Silberstein also presented the U.S. Embassy book donation to Alytus Jurgis Kuncinas Public Library as part of the Lithuanian President's initiative ,,Knygu Kaledos” (Books for Christmas). In his remarks during the presentation, Mr. Silberstein said, “Today, reading is no longer a solitary pastime. People talk about what they’ve read on social media, almost, it seems, in real time. So I hope that these books will find their fans in every medium, and will be used to create many events and conversations that bring our two nations closer together.”
Mr. Silberstein visited the Maple Street Cemetery to honor the memory of  Sgt. Arunas Jarmalavicius, a native of Alytus who was  killed during an attack on an airfield base in Chaghcharan (Afghanistan), by laying flowers on his grave.

Mr. Silberstein also met with the representatives of Alytus Women's Center, a NGO that maintains a domestic violence crisis center. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Ambassador McCarthy talks to The Politic about Foreign Service, Being a Diplomat, Lithuania, and the Maastricht Criteria

In December of last year, Ambassador McCarthy gave an interview to Yale’s magazine The Politic, for their series “Diplomatic Discourse,” a collection of more than 100 interviews with United States Ambassadors. More than 50 Yale students conducted interviews over the telephone, via Skype and email, and in person at embassies on several continents. This series presents two topics in detail: careers in the Foreign Service and contemporary issues facing American embassies. You can read Ambassador McCarthy’s interview and explore the series at

A project of this scale and depth is unprecedented. The series strives to be the authority on the perspectives and experiences of the official American representatives to foreign governments. The reporting team asked all of the Ambassadors about their experiences — if any — in the Foreign Service, the person or event that has most influenced them, and their critique of American diplomacy today.  

Here's an excerpt from the interview -- you can read the rest here

For Ukraine — and today is an important day, because there are a number of important international personalities there as they further decide how to meet the opposition’s requests — it is an ongoing process. What we’ve said, and what Secretary Kerry said himself just a few days ago, is that in terms of not assigning an association agreement, it was a personal decision made by President Yanukovych. The people of Ukraine did not agree with that decision. What we’re seeing is the unfolding of that process.
Lithuania, just like other EU Member States — and I participated in some of the discussions — is clear that they’ve left the door open, and they continue to say this. They feel that the Ukrainian people should be able to express themselves, and that they should be listened to. They have to decide whom they affiliate with, without pressure. As far as the EU is concerned, they were going to keep the door open, which they have. So they never shut the door by any means.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

American Jets Begin Baltic Air Policing

On Friday, January 3rd, the U.S. Air Force took over the +NATO Baltic Air Policing mission from the Belgian Air Force at Zokniai Air Base. The Belgian air commander handed over a symbolic key to the Baltic airspace to the Americans. A detachment of more than 150 troops will police Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian skies for the next four months. Lithuanian Air Force air base commander Major Gintautas Slovikas welcomed his American colleagues in Zokniai and presented them with a loaf of bread as a sign of hospitality. Read more here.

Air Policing is a purely defensive mission. Since the 1970s, NATO has established a comprehensive system of air surveillance and airspace management means, provided by its member nations. The Alliance ensures constant surveillance and control of its assigned airspace 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
NATO members without their own Air Policing assets are assisted by other NATO members. Luxembourg is covered by interceptors from Belgium, while Slovenia and Albania by Italian aircraft.
Since March 2004, when the Baltic States joined NATO, the 24/7 task to police the airspace of the Baltic States was conducted on three-month rotation from Lithuania's First Air Base in Zokniai/Šiauliai International Airport, near the northern city of Šiauliai. Starting with the Turkish deployment, rotations changed to a four-month basis. Usual deployments consist of four fighter aircraft with between 50 and 100 support personnel. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Lithuanian Fulbright Scholar Discovers San Diego--from Mindaugas Briedis

Our today's dispatch is from Professor Mindaugas Briedis from Mykolas Romeris University who is currently finishing his Fulbright Visiting Scholar stay at National University in San Diego, California. 

My Fulbright stay in San Diego lasted for four months and it is hard to grasp the entirety of experience that I’ve got. Perhaps the easier way to tell about it is to divide my story according to Fulbright goals.
The basic goal of the Fulbright was twofold: to get academic experience while being a cultural ambassador for my country. It is amazing how those two modes of stay worked perfectly in my case. As I lived in the very heart of San Diego (downtown), every day after my work I was able to enjoy countless outdoor activities – sports, beaches, hikes, etc. Evenings were dedicated to movies, books, glimpses of the night life of San Diego and, of course, reflection.
At National University I met many friendly colleagues who helped me during my first steps in online education. Surprisingly, I was able not only to watch others working, ask questions and get information, but actually to design an online class and teach it under the great supervision of prof. Paul Majkut. It is true that I have got compliment letters from all (!) of my students. This was certainly a great encouragement for my ambition to learn how to teach online.

Although the first month of my stay was pretty tough (perhaps because of all the paperwork that needed taking care of--banking, lease, social security number, etc.), later I got into a rhythm and found time for my next academic goal – research. National university provided me with all resources needed, thus I could work on my research on online education in humanities. I will present the results of the research at a conference in March and eventually publish the presentation in English.
These were my formal academic goals, but I also want to tell you how much I loved being amongst the people of San Diego in many creative ways. As I am an avid guitarist, I looked to continue playing in California, and we formed a temporary band with other professors at National and played three gigs at a retirement home, Christmas carol at the university and at the gathering of San Diego musicians. Great pleasure! Another great event was organized by San Diego Fulbright panel – we had a nice dinner, music and warm talking in one of the +Balboa Park venues

During all those events I was able to share my experiences with many great friends (students, professor as well as city folks) who also gave me a lot of excellent advice. Thanks to them. I visited most interesting areas and museums in San Diego and travelled California (six national parks – from the desert sands to mountain ice!) for a week. I lived downtown, so always felt the pulse of the city, but also found my solitary refuge with great books and movies as well. I can confidently say I am happy and looking forward to the future – I have determined to tie my life with Fulbright opportunities.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year, New Library

Well, we've had a great year, and to celebrate, the Public Affairs team at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius has given itself a present: A brand new Facebook page for the American Center Library.

The page features the latest and greatest news from the library: new acquisitions, program announcements, events etc. We're also running a series on English language and another one on essential American food recipes. Of course, we welcome your suggestions and comments, and please, help us spread the word!