At the tail end of their NY/DC excursion, the 2018 Leadership Academy students were the honorary guests at a briefing in the Senate Russell Building, sponsored by Senator Charles Grassley (Iowa Republican) and arranged by staff members at the Joint Baltic American National Committee. JBANC Managing Director, Karl Altau, hosted the event, and introduced the attending members of staff from the Baltic Embassies: Aire Kork (Estonia), Arturs Saburovs (Latvia), Kestutis Vaskelevicius (Lithuania), all who spoke about their roles and ongoing activities at the Embassies. Mr. Altau then introduced Legislative Director James Rice from the office of Senator Charles Grassley, and Blake Souter, Legislative Assistant and National Security Policy Analyst for Virginian Democrat, Senator Tim Kaine. Both speakers described their recent trip to the Baltics, and informed the students about the direct contribution that these Senatorial offices have with regard to Baltic affairs and international security. Following these briefers, Karl invited staff representative to Senator Angus King, Kate Durost, to speak about Senator King, and his dual role as both a Senator and currently-campaigning election candidate. In addition, Lithuanian BAFF Fellow, Emile Sreiberyte, currently interning at the office of Illinois Republican Congressman John Shimkus, enlightened the students about her professional and cultural experience during her D.C. internship. Finally, the attending Directors of the BAFF Board, Robert Odle, Richard C. Sheridan, and Director Emeritus Hughlyn Fierce, recounted the trajectory of the fund, beginning with the inception of the BalAEF fund in 1994, through its transition to the current legacy fund.
This presentation provided the students with one of the most informative and motivating moments of their trip to DC. As the students hopped aboard their airport-bound bus, they would pack in their carry-ons the inspiration deriving from the missions of these influential organizations, and the pride that comes from having earned a new role in fostering the ties between the Baltic countries and the US.