U.S. Embassy in Vilnius Celebrates American Independence Day
Vilnius, July 4, 2008
President of the Seimas, Members of the Seimas, Members of the Government, fellow diplomats, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Mary and I want to thank you for joining us to celebrate the 232nd birthday of the United States of America. 232 years ago today, Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was approved by our Continental Congress.
With this act, democracy was introduced to the modern world. It gives me great pleasure to celebrate this holiday in Lithuania, particularly in the 20th anniversary year of the Sajudis movement. Lithuanians proved then and prove now with their help to their neighbors how much you appreciate democracy.
This past year has been an excellent year in U.S. Lithuanian relations. Last July, we marked the 85th anniversary of our diplomatic relations. Prime Minister Kirkilas is completing a very successful trip to the United States today in San Francisco. American soldiers have appreciated serving side-by-side with their Lithuanian friends and allies in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.
There have been sad moments this year as well. Lithuania lost its first soldier in action – Sgt Jaramalivicius – in Ghor in May. I would like to pause for a moment of silence in memory of Sgt Jaramalivicius. (pause). Thank you.
We have a tradition at these events of honoring individuals and companies that are helping build U.S.-Lithuanian relations. With that in mind, I would like to welcome Dr. Juozas Kazickes and congratulate him on the Grand Cross of the Order for Merits to Lithuania that he received from President Adamkus last week. Dr. Kazickes, his wife Alexandra, and his daughter Jurate do so much to promote Lithuanian-American relations and I want to add my thanks to the award given by President Adamkus.
This year, we at the Embassy would like to recognize two individuals and a company that have not only helped to strengthen ties between the U.S. and Lithuania but also had a direct and important impact on people all over the globe, from disadvantaged communities in Lithuania to children in Afghanistan to the world of rock and roll music.
Kraft Foods Lithuania sets a high standard for corporate responsibility and management practices. It promotes a safe and healthy workplace through its educational training program and has implemented a wide range of projects that contribute to the well-being of the community, including two direct food assistance programs. The company's management also encourages employees to volunteer time, services, and money towards meeting community needs.
LtCol Marijus Salkevicius, as head of the Lithuanian-led provincial Reconstruction Team Medical Division in Chaghcharan, Afghanistan in January 2008, successfully performed an emergency operation to save the life of a ten-year old boy under severe conditions at a local hospital. Operating in a ward with no water supply system and heated by an oil-burning stove in the dead of winter, LtCol Marijus Salkevicius’ team performed admirably and the boy made a full recovery. He exemplifies the outstanding contribution Lithuanians are making everyday to the people of Afghanistan.
Saulius Paukštys has been building unique cultural bridges between the United States and Lithuania since at least 1995, when he had the idea to create a tribute to rock legend Frank Zappa. He convinced the city of Vilnius to place, just down the street from the U.S. Embassy, a bust of the musician which has become one of the most famous attractions in Vilnius. This year, Mr. Paukštys made international headlines when his fan club, Zappart, offered Zappa's birthplace, Baltimore, the gift of a matching bust. He also played a significant role in the conception and production of one of the Embassy's biggest hits during this year's "Month of American Culture" – the concert of Zappa's music in symphonic style at the National Philharmonic. Finally, Mr. Paukštys was at the Ghor PRT earlier this year and snapped stellar photos of the good things Lithuanians are doing in Ghor.