Valdas Adamkus (Lithuanian: [ˈvɐ̂ˑɫdɐs ɐˈdɐmˑkʊs] ; born Voldemaras Adamkavičius; 3 November 1926)[2] is a Lithuanian politician, diplomat and civil engineer who served as the fifth and seventh president of Lithuania from 1998 to 2003 and again from 2004 to 2009.

Valdas Adamkus
Adamkus in 2010
5th and 7th President of Lithuania
In office
12 July 2004 – 12 July 2009
Prime Minister
Preceded byArtūras Paulauskas (Acting)
Succeeded byDalia Grybauskaitė
In office
26 February 1998 – 26 February 2003
Prime Minister
Preceded byAlgirdas Brazauskas
Succeeded byRolandas Paksas
Personal details
Voldemaras Adamkavičius

(1926-11-03) 3 November 1926 (age 97)
Kaunas, Lithuania
Political partyIndependent[1]
(m. 1951; died 2023)
Alma materUniversity of Munich
Illinois Institute of Technology
ProfessionCivil engineer, civil servant
President Adamkus meeting with Vice President of the United States Dick Cheney in Lithuania. The meeting took place during the Vilnius Conference 2006: Common Visions for Common Neighborhoods.
Adamkus shaking hands with George W. Bush in the Presidential Palace in Vilnius. In the background is a copy of a famous sculpture by Juozas Zikaras, the Statue of Liberty.
Mikheil Saakashvili, Lech Kaczyński and Valdas Adamkus in Tbilisi, November 2007

Adamkus' first tenure as president lasted for five years, from 26 February 1998 to 28 February 2003, following his defeat by Rolandas Paksas in the 2003 presidential election. Paksas was later impeached and removed from office by a parliamentary vote on 6 April 2004. Soon afterwards, when a new election was announced, Adamkus again ran for president and was re-elected. His approval ratings increased during this period[3] and become a highly regarded moral authority in the state.[4] He was succeeded as president on 12 July 2009 by Dalia Grybauskaitė. He is considered by some as being one of the best Lithuanian leaders in modern history.[5]

He was married to Alma Adamkienė, who was involved in charitable activities in Lithuania. Following the end of his term as president, Adamkus remained involved in international development, and is a member of the European Academy of Diplomacy.

Biography edit

Valdas Adamkus was born on 3 November 1926, into a Roman Catholic family in Kaunas. He was originally given the name "Voldemaras Adamkavičius" but had it changed to "Valdas Adamkus" in 1955.[6] His father was one of the first heads of the Lithuanian Air Force School in the Republic of Lithuania. His uncle was Edvardas Adamkavičius, who was a general in the Lithuanian Armed Forces during the interwar period.[7] During his youth, Adamkus was interested in track and field. He also set the national record for running 100 meters.[8]

As a young man, Adamkus joined the underground resistance against the first Soviet occupation of Lithuania in 1940. He Under the Nazi occupation, while attending high school, he distributed an anti-German underground newspaper. However, he also served in the collaborationist Fatherland Defense Force. In 1944 as the Germans were leaving the country, his family fled Lithuania in order to avoid the second Soviet occupation.[9]

He attended the University of Munich in Germany before emigrating to the United States in 1949. Fluent in five languages – Lithuanian, Polish, English, Russian, and German – he served as a senior non-commissioned officer with the United States 5th Army Reserve's military intelligence unit in the 1950s. In 1951, Adamkus married Alma Nutautaite. They had no children.

After arriving in Chicago, Illinois as a displaced person, he first worked in an automobile factory and later as a draftsman. Adamkus graduated as a civil engineer from Illinois Institute of Technology in 1961. While a student, Adamkus, together with other Lithuanian Americans, collected about 40,000 signatures petitioning the United States government to intervene in the ongoing deportations of Lithuanians to Siberia by the Soviets.[10] The petition was presented to then-Vice President Richard Nixon. Adamkus also raised concerns about other Soviet activities in occupied Lithuania to United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld in 1958, and to President John F. Kennedy in 1962.[10]

Career in the United States Environmental Protection Agency edit

He joined the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at its inception in 1970, working in Cincinnati. In 1981, he was appointed regional administrator by President Ronald Reagan, and was responsible for all air, water, hazardous waste, and other pollution control programs in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, and Wisconsin. In 1985, President Reagan presented him with the Distinguished Executive Presidential Rank Award – the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a civil servant.

In 1972, Adamkus visited Lithuania for the first time in almost thirty years. He was a member of the official delegation from the United States attending an environmental conference in Moscow. As perestroika took root in the Soviet Union, Adamkus's visits to his homeland became more frequent. Valdas Adamkus served as regional administrator of the EPA for sixteen years, and retired in 1997, after twenty-nine years of service. Upon his retirement, he received a congratulatory letter from President Clinton and a Distinguished Career Award from EPA Administrator Carol Browner. EPA Region 5 presented him with the newly established "Valdas V. Adamkus Sustained Commitment to the Environment Honor Award".

Lithuanian presidency, 1998–2003 edit

Shortly after leaving the EPA, Valdas Adamkus moved back to Lithuania. Soon after his decision to run for presidency in 1998, he faced a legal battle in the Lithuanian courts. Doubts arose whether Adamkus was eligible to run for the presidency due to having spent over half a century abroad, raising the possibility that he might not meet minimum residency requirements. However, the court resolved the case in Adamkus' favor, and no other obstacles remained other than his U.S. citizenship, which he officially renounced at the American Embassy in Vilnius.[11] He was elected as President of Lithuania in 1998, defeating Artūras Paulauskas in the runoff, serving from then until 2003, when he ran for re-election, but was unexpectedly defeated by Rolandas Paksas.

He returned to politics after the presidential scandal of 2003 and 2004, when his former rival Paksas was impeached and removed from office. In the first round of the 2004 election, held on 13 June 2004, Adamkus securing 30% of the vote – more than any other candidate. Paksas could not run for office again, because a ruling from Lithuania's Constitutional Court disallowed him from running for public office and he was, therefore, unable to register as a candidate. A runoff election was held on 27 June 2004, which Adamkus won with about 52% of the votes against Kazimira Prunskienė. By 2009, he had served the two presidential terms permitted by the Constitution of Lithuania and was succeeded as president by Dalia Grybauskaite.

In 2003, Valdas Adamkus was named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Construction of Knowledge Societies. The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, noted that Adamkus was named as Ambassador "in recognition of his dedication to the Organization's aims and ideals and with a view to benefiting for the construction of knowledge societies from his wisdom and extensive experience in many of UNESCO's areas of concern, in particular promotion of social development, cultural diversity, dialog and international cooperation."[12]

Lithuanian presidency, 2004–2009 edit

Foreign affairs edit

Under the presidency of Valdas Adamkus, Lithuania actively promoted democracy in the formerly Soviet Eastern European and Asian nations. President Adamkus, together with President Aleksander Kwaśniewski, Javier Solana, Boris Gryzlov and Ján Kubiš, served as a mediator during Ukraine's political crisis, when two candidates in the 2004 presidential election, Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko, each claimed victory. President Adamkus recalled in an interview that "when I asked what we could do to help, Kuchma said the friends of the Ukrainian people should drop whatever they were doing and come to Kiev immediately.".[13] The next day international mediators met in Ukraine. The crisis was resolved after a new election was held.

Valdas Adamkus and his Estonian counterpart Arnold Rüütel rejected an invitation to participate in a commemorative celebration of the end of World War II in Europe in 2005. President Adamkus expressed the view that the war's end, in Lithuania, marked the beginning of a fifty-year Soviet occupation and repression. In response, on 22 July, the United States Congress unanimously passed a resolution that Russia should "issue a clear and unambiguous statement of admission and condemnation of the illegal occupation and annexation by the Soviet Union from 1940 to 1991 of the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania",[14] but Russia refused.

President Adamkus supports an active dialog between European Union member states and former Soviet republics such as Georgia, Ukraine, and Moldova, that are actively seeking membership in the EU. He expressed support for these candidate members during the Community of Democratic Choice in 2005, at the Vilnius Conference 2006, and on several other occasions.

Valdas Adamkus is an Honorary Member of The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation.

Domestic affairs edit

Valdas Adamkus enjoyed a very high approval rating in Lithuania. He was also recognized for the second time for his support of Lithuanian youth. President Adamkus was actively involved in government reorganizations in 2004 and 2006. In his 2006 State of the Nation address,[15] Adamkus stated that his top priorities were:

  • Increasing public participation in the political realm
  • Targeted and transparent use of the EU funds and opportunities for building a greater well-being in Lithuania
  • Reforms in public governance, education and science, social support and health care
  • The development of professional competence among civil servants, especially in assessing regulatory impacts
  • Approval of a political code of ethics
  • Direct mayoral elections, and elimination of the county system
  • Construction of a new nuclear power unit in Ignalina
  • Legislation regulating the selection, appointment, and promotion of judges
  • Controlling "brain drain" by supporting research and higher education infrastructure

Honours and awards edit

National honours edit

Foreign honours edit

Honorary doctorates edit

Adamkus holds honorary doctorates at universities in Lithuania, the United States, and other countries, including:

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Miles, Lee (2003). The European Union: Annual Review 2002/2003. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4051-2986-2.
  2. ^ Suziedelis, Saulius A. (7 February 2011). Historical Dictionary of Lithuania. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810875364.
  3. ^ V. Adamkus išlieka populiariausiu Lietuvos politiku (Adamkus Remains the Most Popular Politician in Lithuania), Baltic News Service (BNS), 22 July 2006, Accessed 7 September 2006.
  4. ^ Leonidas Donskis, Užsikimšusios politinės lyderystės arterijos (Clogged Arteries of Political Leadership), Klaipėda, 24 April 2006, Accessed 7 September 2006.
  5. ^ "Raimundas Lopata: Prezidento Valdo Adamkaus istorijos samprata (II)".
  6. ^ "Sportas – neatsiejamas Prezidento Valdo Adamkaus gyvenimo palydovas" [Sport is an integral part of President Valdas Adamkus' life]. Lietuvos olimpinis muziejus (in Lithuanian). 3 November 2016. Archived from the original on 3 October 2017. Retrieved 2 October 2017.
  7. ^ Bartasevičius, Valdas (29 March 2014). "Vyties Kryžiaus kavalieriai istoriją rašė narsa ir krauju". Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 July 2017.
  8. ^ Mindaugas Augustis (19 April 2011). "Knygoje – V. Adamkaus sportinis kelias" (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 27 March 2011.
  9. ^ Augminas (16 October 2006). "Laisvės kryžkelės (XXX). Sedos kautynės". (in Lithuanian). Retrieved 29 November 2023.
  10. ^ a b Simas Sužiedėlis, ed. (1970–1978). "Valdas Adamkus". Encyclopedia Lituanica. Vol. I. Boston, Massachusetts: Juozas Kapočius. p. 16. LCCN 74-114275.
  11. ^ "Lithuanian Return U.S. Passport". The Washington Post. 26 February 1988. Archived from the original on 18 October 2016.
  12. ^ Roni Amelan, Valdas Adamkus to be named UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Knowledge Societies, Bureau of Public Information, UNESCO. Accessed 7 September 2006.
  13. ^ Steven Paulikas, A House Divided, Newsweek, 24 January 2006. Accessed 7 September 2006.
  14. ^ "U.S. House of Representatives Passes H. Con. Res. 128". Archived from the original on 7 March 2016.
  15. ^ Valdas Adamkus, State of the Nation 2006 (PDF), Office of the President of Lithuania. Accessed 7 September 2006.
  16. ^ "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement.

Further reading edit

  • Fredriksen, John C. ed. Biographical Dictionary of Modern World Leaders: 1992 to the Present (Facts on File Library of World History) (2003) pp 5–6
  • Eastern Europe. ABC-CLIO. 2005. p. 196. ISBN 9781576078006.

External links edit

Political offices
Preceded by President of Lithuania
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of Lithuania
Succeeded by