25th Anniversary of the US-LT Educational Exchanges

Ambassador Hall’s Remarks at the Reception Marking the 25th Anniversary of the US-LT Educational Exchanges

May 16, 2017

Gerbiamas ministre, gerbiamos ministrės,

Labas vakaras, man labai malonu būti čia šį vakarą kartu su jumis.

Honorable Ministers, members of the U.S. – Lithuania Alumni Association, exchange program participants and alumni, ladies and gentlemen,

I’m delighted to welcome all of you here this evening to join in celebrating 25 years of people-to-people exchanges between the United States and Lithuania.  For 25 years, the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius has been proud to sponsor the academic and professional development of Lithuanians through our exchange programs, which include the Fulbright program, the International Visitor Leadership Program – more commonly known as IVLP – the Benjamin Franklin Transatlantic Fellowship, and many others.  Since 1992, we have made it possible for over 1,000 Lithuanians to visit the United States on programs ranging from local governance to media literacy to entrepreneurship and innovation in arts and sciences.  Many of them have gone on to become leaders in their fields, accomplishing great things here in Lithuania.

The programs we’re celebrating tonight mark the most recent chapter in the story of the Lithuanian-American friendship that goes back more than a century.   The close ties of family, friendship and values we have forged together continue to bind us today, as the United States and Lithuania now confront global challenges together, as allies and partners.

Exchange Programs have never been more important than they are in the interconnected world of today, as we work together to build the U.S.-Lithuania relationship of the next 100 years.  I have heard so many stories from alumni about how their experience in the United States – even if brief – transformed their lives.  They have come back to Lithuania not only with new knowledge and skills, but also with renewed commitment to contributing here at home, and with a keener awareness that they are part of a larger global community with endless possibilities.

Alumni of our academic and professional exchanges have made enormous contributions to Lithuania in a time of remarkable change.  All of you, all of the alumni here today, are stars in your fields of politics, science, the arts, business, academia and civil society.  Your continued contributions in Lithuania today are evidence of the program’s success and the rich tapestry of ties that connect us.

I would like to thank the US-Lithuania Alumni Association in particular for continuing to “pay it forward,” as we say nowadays.  You continue to share your knowledge and experience to help others – often by volunteering your own time – sponsoring leadership workshops and networking opportunities, including alumni in embassy events and meetings, or providing grants for important projects.   You represent the very best of what together we can accomplish.

For example, the US-Lithuania Alumni Association hosted a European conference on “The Borderline between Cybersecurity and Individual Freedoms,” and hosted a networking and fundraising training for alumni in Lithuania.  Members of the Association have completed projects on refugee integration, hosted a week-long tolerance camp for Baltic youth, and organized an English-language Spelling Bee for students at minority schools in the Vilnius and Trakai area.

Most recently, a group of alumni was awarded a U.S. government grant to implement a long-term media literacy program for Lithuanian students and teachers.  We know many Alumni are also looking forward to participating in this summer’s Democracy Camp – a week-long program for Lithuanian, Polish and American students to discuss the rights and responsibilities we share as citizens of democratic countries.  We are very excited about these projects and are thrilled that alumni are able to take advantage of funding opportunities to address such important and timely issues.

This evening I look forward to hearing more about your experiences in America, your successes in Lithuania, and your plans for the future.

Thank you and enjoy the evening!