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Address by H.E. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania, at the International Conference "The Baltics as an Intersection of Civilizational Identities"

 

Distinguished Organizers and Participants of the Conference,
Dear Guests of Lithuania,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

I sincerely welcome all of you who have gathered here today at this exclusive academic forum held in Lithuania. For our state, which is this year celebrating the millennium of the first mention of its name in written records, it is a wonderful opportunity to look back at the history of Lithuania and of its neighbors, to reflect on the emergence of our identity and its potential, to contemplate our national mentality and its correlation to specific facts of our past.

 

The very idea of the Baltic region has always been, and still is, multifaceted and contradictory. Various political and cultural visions and perceptions of the region have emerged and existed throughout history. Different viewpoints and perspectives create different mental images of the region, its status and boundaries. I would say that the diversity of the countries represented here at the conference affords an excellent opportunity to take a more general and civilizational view of the Baltic countries.

 

The achievements of the Baltic countries in arts, science and sports have attested more than once that the success and well-being of a state is predetermined not only by its territorial size or population, but mostly by spiritual values: moral strength and responsibility for own decisions. A full and continued existence of a nation and a state is possible when these values integrate and reinforce society and also when they connect us to our neighbors, serving as a token of solidarity, closeness, trust, mutual responsibility, and honest dialogue. I believe that the academic environment is the best place for such a dialogue.


This dialogue has acquired its true dimension quite recently, when the Baltic States went through radical transformations at the turn of the 21st century. At that time we streamlined our efforts to take over the best foreign practices, strengthen the economy and build a democratic society. As we focused all endeavors on creating a new state, we fell short of time to reflect on who we are, where we are going to and what we want to be in the future.


However, I firmly believe that we will correct this failing. History and cultural studies that highlight national mentality, changes in society and the impact of the Soviet times on our life were introduced in Lithuania several years ago. This conference witnesses that we are not only concerned about self perception, but we are also willing to share this perception with those who have come through the same historical experience.


Today is yet another confirmation of the need for and the importance of such studies. We well know that economic progress is worthless if there are no foundation values in times of both economic well-being and economic slowdown. Today our societies are searching for moral pillars that would give them strength and courage. Therefore it is quite understandable that people are turning their eyes toward history and culture which have long dominated the work and life of most prominent people in the Baltic region.


Let us learn from them to see wide and far so that we can contemplate different truths and viewpoints. Let us learn together with our neighbors to question what we have believed to be the monopoly of truth. It is only our willingness to renounce all claims to the ultimate truth, our tolerance and respect for others that will lead us on this path. I firmly believe that the dialogue and ideas put forward at this conference will serve as guidelines along the way. I wish that the spirit of academic, creative and people-to-people partnership and good-neighborliness be with you forever. Best success to all of you.

 

H.E. Mr. Valdas Adamkus, President of the Republic of Lithuania

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