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Michigan Opens Its World to Lithuanians
February 26, 2004

For Immediate Release
PR: 04-003

Business and government leaders to share experience with Lithuanian counterparts as part of Open World Program

Washington, DC – Lansing and Detroit, MI, are among the few select American cities chosen to host the first Lithuanian leaders to participate in the Open World Program, beginning on February 28, 2004. Open World was established in 1999 by the U.S. Congress to enable emerging Russian political and civic leaders to meet their U.S. counterparts and to gain firsthand experience of how American civil society works. In 2003, Congress authorized the expansion of the program to include 14 other countries. Lithuania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan were selected by the Open World Board of Trustees for the first pilot exchanges under the enlarged program.

All four delegates slated to visit Lansing and then Detroit – three men and one woman – are leading representatives of the Lithuanian business sector, and several also head or actively participate in the work of the country’s top business associations. The group includes Kestutis Bartkevicius, general director of Mazeikiu Varduva, a company specializing in construction materials and services; Saulius Grinkevicius, director of Vesiga, a condiments company; Arturas Mackevicius, director of the retail company Talismanas Tau; and Aldona Matukiene, commercial director of Helianta, a tableware company. Jakaterina Samolivac, coordinator of the student affairs office at Kaunas University of Technology, will accompany the group as a facilitator.

After a day of orientation in Washington, DC, the participants will spend a week in Lansing and Detroit meeting with government and business leaders. Their impressive agenda has been designed to showcase effective interaction between the government and private business to promote economic development in the state.

Meetings with U.S. Representative Mike Rogers (MI) and Michigan Senate Majority Leader Ken Sikkema (Grand Rapids) will provide the delegation with an inside view ofthe U.S. governmental system. Senator Sikkema will present delegation members with a Senate resolution welcoming them to the state of Michigan. The delegation will also visit U.S. Representative Joe Knollenberg's office in Farmington Hills.

Grassroots business advocacy and public/private partnerships will be the focus of meetings, roundtable discussions and receptions scheduled at the Small Business Association of Michigan; the Michigan State Chamber of Commerce; the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce: Consumers Power Co.; the Michigan Funeral Directors Association; and Quick Connect USA.

All delegates will stay with host families, which will introduce them to American family and community life. The Lithuanian group will also tour the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village and visit the Edison Project premises.

The Lithuanian-American Community, Inc., (LAC) of Detroit is responsible for organizing and hosting the Lithuanians’ visit. Established in 1951 for the purpose of fostering and supporting educational and cultural activities in Lithuanian communities in the United States, LAC now has chapters in 68 U.S. communities and is closely affiliated with the World Lithuanian Community in 33 countries, with membership open to all of Lithuanian descent. It is the local partner of the Academy for Educational Development (AED), which received a grant in 2004 from the Open World Leadership Center to administer this and similar exchanges. AED is an independent, nonprofit organization with expertise in education, research, training, policy analysis, and innovative program design and management. American Councils for International Education: ACTR/ACCELS is handling the trip’s logistics.

The Open World Program brings emerging political and civic leaders from participating countries to communities across the United States. Delegations experience American community and cultural life while learning about the responsibilities of and interrelationships between the three branches and three different levels (federal, state, and local) of the U.S. government. Program participants also explore how the U.S. private and nonprofit sectors help meet social and civic needs. Delegates engage in substantive exchange with their professional counterparts; direct observation; and hands-on experiences. The program is conducted by the Open World Leadership Center, an independent legislative branch agency, which works cooperatively with the U.S. Department of State and other U.S. executive and judicial branch agencies.

For more background on Open World, please contact Dara Klatt or visit