Dalia Grybauskaitė: President of Lithuania & Meridian IVLP Alumna

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė (via Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Flickr)


This post is the sixth entry in a blog series detailing the itineraries of both current and former Heads of State who participated in a Department of State International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) project arranged by Meridian International Center. The entry below summarizes the IVLP itinerary of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė

Visitor: President (as of July 2009) Dalia Grybauskaitė
Country of Origin: Lithuania
Program Year: 1994
Travel Itinerary: Washington, DC; Raleigh, NC; Laredo, TX; St. Louis, MO; Denver, CO; San Jose, CA; New York, NY

As Dr. Dalia Grybauskaitė enters her ninth year in office as the first female president of Lithuania, we are looking at her IVLP itinerary that Meridian designed and implemented in 1994. This blog entry will provide insights into her program and her professional background at the time of her participation in the exchange.

When Dr. Grybauskaitė took part in the IVLP, she was serving as the Director of the Economic Relations Department of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a position that required her to represent Lithuania as it entered European Union free trade agreements. Previously, she had served as Director of the European Department in the Ministry of International Economic Relations.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė (via Council of the EU on Flickr)
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė (via Council of the EU on Flickr)

In July 1994, Dr. Grybauskaitė joined twelve other government leaders, journalists, and industry leaders for a four-week long European Regional program titled “U.S. Perspectives on Trade.” Throughout their IVLP, the group had opportunities to speak with foreign policy makers, learn about the trade policymaking process, and engage with advocacy organizations. Given the signing of NAFTA earlier that year, the participants would also discuss its development and effect on European economic integration.

The itinerary began in Washington, DC where officers from the U.S. Information Agency and the programming team from Meridian welcomed Dr. Grybauskaitė and her colleagues. After the opening session, the group received an overview of current U.S. trade policy and issues from a Senior Fellow at the Institute for International Economics, and a briefing on the U.S. federalist system of government with a professor from Georgetown University. Subsequent appointments in Washington included a meeting with the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, a panel discussion with representatives from IBM and French & Company, and a conversation on intellectual property rights with the Motion Picture Association of America. After these meetings concluded, Dr. Grybauskaitė and the group departed for Raleigh.

Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC;Raleigh, NC; Laredo, TX; St. Louis, MO; Denver, CO; San Jose, CA; New York, NY)
Travel itinerary (Read Washington, DC; Raleigh, NC; Laredo, TX; St. Louis, MO; Denver, CO; San Jose, CA; New York, NY)

The program in North Carolina examined the state government’s initiatives for promoting international trade. In an effort to provide a range of perspectives on the topic, meetings had been arranged with journalists from the Triangle Business Journal, senior trade specialists in the International Trade Division of the NC Department of Commerce, and representatives from the Small Business and Technology Development Center. Targeted professional meetings were also organized along with a tour of Raleigh and an outing to witness a minor league baseball game. Before they split into two for programs in Laredo, TX and Pittsburgh, PA, the group joined the NC World Trade Association at a reception in their honor.

Dr. Grybauskaitė and several of her colleagues took part in the brief program in the southern border city of Laredo to gain additional perspectives on NAFTA. Specifically, the agenda included perspectives on how NAFTA would affect the American economy, workforce, and local communities with strong manufacturing and union ties. Given its proximity to the U.S.-Mexico border, Laredo also provided unique viewpoints on migrant labor, the immediate effects of free trade, and the establishment of free trade zones and maquiladoras (Mexican-based manufacturing facilities owned by American companies). Local contacts organized appointments with the Laredo Chamber of Commerce, the Graduate School of International Trade and Business at Texas A&M International University, and the Teamsters Union.

 “Dr. Grybauskaitė was most impressed with the American entrepreneurial spirit…she added that in her country individuals were not encouraged nor trained to think in such a way as to be able to create such enterprises.”** Ms. Cynthia Chard on Dalia’s experiences in a meeting with Clayton Point Fertilizer, a high tech fertilizer company in St. Louis, Missouri.

Following their separate local programs, the group reconvened in St. Louis for meetings with the Monsanto Corporation, the National Corngrowers Association, and the Merchant’s Exchange. The meeting with Monsanto was particularly notable, as it included a panel discussion on the “information and impressions received from these contrasting communities” concerning NAFTA, while the other appointments provided insight into the impact of NAFTA on agricultural trade. To finish their program in Missouri, Dr. Grybauskaitė and her colleagues also enjoyed a home hosted dinner with a local farm family and a riverboat tour.

Article clip on visitors from the Journal Courier in Jacksonville, IL (7.18.1994)
Article clip on visitors from the Journal Courier in Jacksonville, IL (7.18.1994)


Subsequently, each of the participants traveled separately cities they had pre-selected as of particular interest. Dr. Grybauskaitė chose Denver, where she met with the Western Governors’ Association to discuss how the GATT affected Western states’ policies; the Colorado International Trade Office, to learn about promoting exports and state involvement in financing trade; and the World Trade Center, to examine services to help promote the state’s view on NAFTA. Following these meetings and prior to reconvening with the rest of the group in San Jose, Dr. Grybauskaitė had the opportunity to take part in a home hosted meal and drive through the Rocky Mountain National Park.

San Jose’s overall theme was Pacific Rim trade policy, “particularly in the area of high technology and telecommunications.”* With this in mind, in Silicon Valley, the IVLP participants visited organizations such as the 3COM Corporation, the American Electronics Association, and the Semiconductor Industry Association. Additionally, Dr. Grybauskaitė and her colleagues took part in a sightseeing tour of San Francisco, visited Napa Valley, and participated in an “all-American” summer picnic in Saratoga.*

The group finished their program in New York, where they had a “synthesis” session led by the current Senior Vice President for Policy and Program at the U.S. Council for International Business. Following an evaluation session with the Meridian and Department of State programming team, the group had time for a Broadway show before returning home to their respective nations.

“Dr. Grybauskaitė was most impressed with examples of how individuals with good ideas could turn them into profitable business.”** Ms. Cynthia Chard on Dalia’s perceptual changes following the program.

Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė with fellow Meridian IVLP Alumna, British Prime Minister Theresa May (via Number 10 on Flickr)
Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaitė with fellow Meridian IVLP Alumna, British Prime Minister Theresa May (via Number 10 on Flickr)

After the “U.S.  Perspectives on Trade” IVLP concluded, Dr. Grybauskaitė was appointed in succession: Plenipotentiary Minister in the U.S.’s Lithuanian Embassy (1996-1999); Deputy Minister of Finance (1999-2000); Vice Minister of Foreign in Affairs (2000-2001); Minister of Finance (2001-2004); European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget (2004-2009); and President of Lithuania (2009-Present).

*Quotes taken directly from the original itinerary.

**Quotes taken directly from the State Department Closing Report written up by Ms. Cynthia W, Chard, U.S. Escort Officer.

If you are interested in reading more about the Heads of State that have traveled on Meridian administered IVLPs throughout the years, check out the following blogs:

Meridian IVLP Alum Becomes U.N. Secretary General
UK Prime Minister is a Meridian IVLP Alumna
Norwegian Prime Minister is an IVLP Alumna
Dominican President is an IVLP Alum
Finnish President is an IVLP Alum