Lithuanian ambassador to America visits Penn State Schuylkill
SCHUYLKILL HAVEN — Penn State Schuylkill had a special international guest on Monday with a visit by Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States and Mexico Žygimantas Pavilionis.
Pavilionis stopped at the Schuylkill Haven campus as a guest of U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-17, to enjoy some ethnic coal region cuisine, chat with people from the county and give a presentation on Lithuania and its relationship with America.
The ambassador has visited Schuylkill County a number of times, his first visit during the 99th annual Lithuanian Days in 2013. He will soon be returning to his native Lithuania since his five-year term as ambassador will end in June.
After arriving at the campus, university leadership hosted a reception in the ambassador’s honor that included halupkies, halushkie and bleenies.
Following the reception, everyone moved to the John E. Morgan Auditorium for Pavilionis’s presentation that covered issues in Lithuania, Ukraine and other Eastern European counties. About 150 people attended and listened to the opening remarks by Kelly M. Austin, chancellor at the Schuylkill campus. Cartwright spoke of his first and subsequent meetings with Pavilionis and the invitation to visit Schuylkill County again for an academic presentation.
Cartwright called to the stage county Commissioners Gary Hess and George Halcovage, and county Court of Common Pleas Judge John E. Domalakes for remarks, and then called Austin back to the podium for a formal introduction of Pavilionis.
When he took to the stage, Pavilionis began with two short films, the first focusing on the Lithuanian symbol “Vytis,” which is a knight with a lance and shield on a horse. It showed how the symbol became an important symbol, which is used on coinage. The second film spoke of Lithuanian economy and its success after Lithuania became free in 1990 and how the country is a great place to invest.
Pavilionis spoke of the concerns that Lithuania and other countries have with an aggressive Russia, explaining that it is important to show the commitment to freedom.
“When I was learning in the schools and fighting for freedom against the old Soviet Union, I learned that if you really want freedom, you have to stand up for it,” he said.
Born Aug. 22, 1971, in the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius, Pavilionis grew up with parents who prized higher education — his father, Roland Pavilionis, being an academician and his mother, Mary Pavilionieneė Venus, a professor and legislator. He attended college at Vilnius University, where he earned a master’s degree in philosophy and postgraduate diploma (Ph.D.) in political science (international relations). Pavilionis’ language proficiency includes Lithuanian, Russian, French, Italian and English, and he is learning German and Spanish.
In 1993, Pavilionis joined the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and worked in the Western European Division, with the rank of third secretary, where he was instrumental in achieving Lithuanian accession into NATO and the European Union.
He was assistant director of policy from 1994-95, before moving to the Ministry of European Integration, Department of Political Cooperation. He worked in Brussels, Belgium, at the Lithuanian Permanent Mission from 1999-2002. Pavilionis was then promoted to lead the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ European Integration Department from 2002-04.
In 2003, he was awarded Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania by the president of Lithuania.
He served as ambassador-at-large and chief coordinator for Lithuania’s presidency of the Community of Democracies, as well as chief coordinator for the Transatlantic Cooperation and Security Policy Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
A career diplomat, he became ambassador of Lithuania to the United States in August 2010.
Pavilionis and his wife, Lina Pavilioniene, have four sons.
At the conclusion of his talk, Pavilionis reminded everyone about the connection between Lithuanian and American people and how the United States has influenced their feelings of freedom and liberty.
“Sometimes we feel more American than Americans themselves,” he said. “We are born because of inspiration coming from this county. You don’t have a lot of places in the world who love Americans. We do. We love you because you have rested our souls. We just want America to wake up. We’re under attack from inside and from outside. When my foreign ministers come to Washington, they also come with the same wake-up call. How many wake-up calls do we really need to wake up?”
Cartwright came to the stage and presented Pavilionis with a pair of gold-plated U.S. House of Representatives cuff links and a book of Ansel Adams photographs.
After the presentations, Pavilionis added, “Believe me, with all your problems, you are the best. Keep being Americans and lead the world, because if you’re not leading, and those guys are leading, that will be a nightmare. You are the best of the best. Get your confidence back and lead.”
The Lithuanian embassy is located in Washington, D.C. Its website is http://usa.mfa.lt/usa/en/.