ALA elects chair, supports Congress resolution

The American Latvian Association has elected a new chairperson and has voiced its support of a resolution proposed in Congress asking Russia to acknowledge the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states.

During its annual meeting May 13-15 in Kalamazoo, Mich., the ALA elected Mārtiņš Duhms as its new chairperson, replacing Dace Copeland, who had decided not to seek another term.

Duhms, 58, was born in a Displaced Persons camp in Germany and immigrated with his parents to Boston, Mass. He holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Tufts University and a master’s degree in business management from Harvard University. Duhms helped found two companies, leading one for 14 years as its president.

According to his biography, Duhms retired 10 years ago. In 1999, he and his wife visited Latvia as part of the ALA-organized “Sveika, dzimtene” tour, after which he vowed to renew his involvement in the Latvian-American community. For the past four years, he led ALA’s fundraising office. Two years ago, he also took over the membership office.

Duhms told ALA delegates that among the association’s goals should be its self-preservation. The association should assure its financial stability and boost its membership by appealing to recent immigrants from Latvia as well as those Latvian-Americans who no longer speak Latvian but still have an interest in their ancestry.

Delegates to the ALA congress also voiced their support for the congressional resolution, H.Cons.Res. 128, introduced April 12 in the House of Representatives by Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.). Although the resolution has seen no action since being referred to the House Committee on International Relations, it now has 19 co-sponsors.

The resolution calls on Russia to “issue a clear and unambiguous statement of admission and condemnation of the illegal occupation and annexation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991 of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.”

A similar resolution was introduced May 12 in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.). That resolution has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations.

During the ALA congress, delegates also approved a 2005 budget of USD 747,800.

The ALA has 5,637 members, according to an association press release. A total of 86 delegates participated in the congress, representing 47 different Latvian-American societies, congregations and other organizations, as well as individual members.

Mārtiņš Duhms

Mārtiņš Duhms has been elected the new chairperson of the American Latvian Association.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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