Zatlers begins weeklong visit to United States

Latvian President Valdis Zatlers has begun a weeklong working visit to the United States that will include meetings with government officials and politicians, speaking to Baltic-Americans and participating in an ethnic school’s commencement ceremony.

The president’s agenda, according to his press office, begins May 14 with a speech to the U.S.-Baltic Foundation’s business development conference in Washington, D.C. The conference is part of the foundation’s annual Gala weekend program.

The same day the president is set to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California; Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida, who is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe; Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. George Voinovich of Ohio.

He also will visit the Latvian Embassy in Washington, D.C., where he will view the art exhibit “Latvian Dimensions: Contemporary Installations and Sculpture” and present Latvian state honors to a number of U.S. officials and Latvian-American community activists.
On May 15, the president is slated to visit The Brooking Institution, where he will present a speech, “Opportunities and Challenges Beyond 2009: The Role of Transatlantic Partnership in a Post-Economic Crisis World.” The presentation is scheduled from 10-11:30 a.m. at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1779 Massachusetts Ave. N.W., Washington. Also on the schedule is a meeting with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and a speech during a reception for the U.S.-Baltic Foundation’s Gala.
The next day, May 16, sees the president speaking at the opening of the Joint Baltic American National Committee’s conference on Baltic security. In the evening, Zatlers will speak again during the U.S.-Baltic Foundation’s Gala, when he will be the guest of honor.

Before leaving May 17 for Seattle, the president and First Lady Lilita Zatlers will attend a Family Day church service and Latvian school commencement ceremony beginning at 11 a.m. in the Latvian Ev. Latvian Lutheran Church of Washington, 400 Hurley Ave., Rockville, Md.

On the West Coast, Zatlers is scheduled May 18 to visit the University of Washington, where among other agenda items he is to visit with Assistant Professor Guntis Šmidchens and students in the Baltic Studies Program. Later in the day he will meet with the Seattle Latvian community at the Latvian Cultural Center, 11710 Third Ave. N.E., Seattle.

The president on May 19 will visit Microsoft Corp. and meet with company CEO Steve Ballmer. Zatlers also is to meet with Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who is president of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s Global Development Program. Finally, Zatlers is to speak to the World Affairs Council at 7 p.m. in the Town Hall Seattle, 1119 Eighth Ave., Seattle. To register for the event, telephone the World Affairs Council at +1 (206) 441-5910. Tickets are USD 10 for council members and for students, USD 20 for nonmembers.

The First Lady’s schedule during the U.S. trip includes a tour of a Ronald McDonald House Charities mobile assistance center in Washington, D.C. A similar project could be implemented in Latvia, according to the president’s press office.

Mrs. Zatlers, who is patroness of a boarding school and developmental center for children with hearing difficulties in Valmiera, will visit similar schools in the Washington area. Among these are Key Elementary School, which has integrated students with special educational needs, and Gallaudet University, where she will learn about a program for children with hearing loss.

Also in the nation’s capital, Mrs. Zatlers is to visit the Newseum, a museum about journalism and the news industry, where she will present the book Latvia Under the Rule of the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, 1940-1991 as a gift from the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. The First Lady also will tour the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
In Seattle, Mrs. Zatlers will accompany the president when he meets with the Latvian community and when he visits Microsoft.

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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