Washington, DC – Fifty Lithuanian political, civic, and economic leaders will travel to the United States on February 26, 2004, as the first participants in the new Lithuania Open World Program. Their visit marks the expansion of the Open World Program into the Baltic States. The U.S. Congress established Open World in 1999 to enable emerging Russian political and civic leaders to meet their U.S. counterparts and see firsthand how American civil society works. In 2003, Congress authorized expanding Open World in 14 eligible countries. Lithuania, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan were selected by the Open World Leadership Center Board of Trustees for the first pilot exchanges under the expanded Open World Program.
The inaugural Lithuanian Open World delegations include mayors and other municipal officials, newspaper editors, and NGO and business leaders. The participants were nominated by Lithuanian and U.S. nonprofit organizations and business associations and selected in close consultation with the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius.
After a one-day orientation in Washington, DC on February 26, the Lithuanian delegates will travel in small, interest-based groups to seven communities nationwide for week-long visits. Open World host organizations – the Academy for Educational Development, the International Institute of the Graduate School, USDA and Friendship Force International – will welcome Lithuanian Open World participants in Omaha, NE; Moorhead, MN; Detroit, MI; Chicago, IL; Fort Collins, CO; Portland, OR; and Burlington, VT. Each group’s program will focus on a specific professional theme, such as “local government,” “business development,” “NGO development” and “mass media.”
Highlights of the Lithuanian leaders’ local programs include meetings with governors, state legislators, mayors, and corporate executives; briefings with newspapers editors and reporters, roundtables at chambers of commerce, NGOs, and small business associations. All delegates will stay with host families, which will introduce them to American family and community life.
“The historically close relationship between our two countries led our Board of Trustees unanimously to recommend Lithuania for the Open World Program,” said Dr. James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress and Chair of the Open World Board of Trustees. “On behalf of our Board, I want to thank Ambassador Mull and the U.S. Embassy in Lithuania for providing us with excellent assistance and guidance to get this program off to a productive start.”
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 at 202-466-6210 or visit http://www.openworld.gov.