By Andrij Wowk
ARLINGTON, VA - A broad range of individuals from the Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American communities - including academics, diplomats, and professionals -- gathered in the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel on the bank of the Potomac River between June 11 and June 13, to take part in The Washington Group's 2004 Leadership Conference.
Titled TWG at 20: Reflection, Renewal and Celebration, the conference marked the 20th anniversary of TWG, a leading association of Ukrainian-American professionals.
As part of the conference, National President Andrij Wowk represented the UESA on a panel titled Improving Our Professionals' Organizations, which provided an opportunity for thought-provoking discussions by panelists and audience members alike.
The Diplomatic View
The TWG conference was preceded by a reception at the Embassy of Ukraine on Friday night, June 11.
The conference opened on Saturday, June 12 with introductory remarks by TWG Conference Chairman George Masiuk and current TWG President Ihor Kotlarchuk. The morning session consisted of an "Ambassador's Forum", featuring Oleh Bilorus, Ukraine's first ambassador to the US, William Miller, the first US ambassador to Ukraine, and Steven Pifer, the US ambassador to Ukraine between 1998 and 2000.
The keynote speaker during the luncheon which followed was the Hon. Mykhailo Reznik, the current Ukrainian ambassador to the US.
Amb. Reznik noted that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in Ukraine has grown by 11.5% between 2002 and 2004, while industrial output in this time period has grown by 17.7%. Foreign direct investment in Ukraine in 2003, according to an accompanying report, was some $1.2 billion USD, still quite low by international standards. (Note: Readers interested in a copy of the economic report presented by Amb. Reznik are asked to send an e-mail to: email@example.com).Election Unease
Saturdays' luncheon was followed by an engaging and lively panel, Ukraine on the Eve of Elections.
The panel included such experts on Ukrainian politics as Dr. Nadia Duk (National Endowment for Democracy), Eugene Fishel (U.S. Department of State), Dr. Taras Kuzio (University of Toronto), and former U.S. Ambassador Nelson Ledsky (National Democratic Institute), with Orest Deychakiwsky of TWG as the moderator.
In contrast to the rosy economic picture painted by Amb. Reznik, the panelists concluded that Ukraine's upcoming elections (despite international observers) are unlikely to be free of at least some level of ethical violations, corruption, and/or scandal.
They also noted that the October elections, which will decide the next president of Ukraine, will be a critical event in the history of independent Ukraine.
Saturday's conference activities concluded with a gala reception and banquet honoring the 20th anniversary of TWG. The banquet included a photographic retrospective of TWG's inspiring and successful 20-year history of sponsoring lectures, events, and workshops on a wide range of topics relating to Ukraine, which included some of the most prominent Ukrainian and Ukrainian-American political, cultural, and other figures of this time period.
Of special note to UESA members was mention of the UESA's Washington chapter-organized panel on the future of the Ukrainian aeronautical industry, held as part of the TWG-sponsored "Synergy" Leadership Conference in 1999.
Challenges and Improvements
Sunday's activities were opened by the panel Improving Our Professionals' Organizations, which included UESA National President Andrij Wowk, Dr. George Hrycelak of the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America (UMANA), Nancy Medwid of the Ukrainian American Bar Association (UABA), and Oksana Xenos of the Ukrainian National Women's League of America (UNWLA), which was moderated by George Masiuk of TWG. Each panelist was allotted time to describe steps that have been taken improve their organizations, which was followed by questions from the audience.
Speaking first, Dr. Hrycelak outlined a number of recent administrative improvements within UMANA, which have included the appointment of a salaried executive director, a move toward quarterly dues payments, the election of national board members from around the US (not just within the area of UMANA's headquarters), and a focus on overall fiscal transparency to members. His main suggestions to other organizations were to engage the young, not to underestimate the 4th Wave and not to neglect administrative continuity, and to recognize and take advantage of geographic dispersal of members.
Ms. Xenos followed Dr. Hrycelak, and provided an outline of the UNWLA's history and its role in global women's issues which also affect Ukraine, such as the trafficking of women. She noted that the UNWLA is a member of the Federation of Women's Organizations. A potential future improvement being considered by the UNWLA is encouraging "de-facto" membership in the organization by all Ukrainian female youths and young women, with "activation" of this membership once these individuals reach professional age.
Mr. Wowk followed Ms. Xenos to the podium, and provided a brief outline of the UESA's history, its mission, some recent challenges, and current steps being taken by the National Board to improve the organization.
Among these Mr. Wowk noted administrative improvements such as dues centralization, better internal and external communication within the organization, sponsorship of a number of local and national events, and other improved member benefits.
He concluded his presentation with a description of UESA projects for the near future, such as the UESA Foundation and scholarship program and a renewed focus on advertising/marketing and "branding" of the UESA, to better define it to members of the Ukrainian-American community who may be prospective members.
Ms. Medwid, a recently elected member of the UABA national board, was the final panelist of the day. She described a number of improvements being undertaken by the UABA such as providing Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits at association functions, allowing advertising opportunities on the UABA Web site, and providing mentoring opportunities at local law schools.
Questions to the panelists from the audience included the topics of 4th Wave recruitment efforts by the organizations (especially of students), and steps to increase the visibility of our organizations in the American community and press.
Conference events wrapped up on Sunday with brunch, at which the keynote speaker was Konstantyn Morozov, the former Ukrainian Minister of Defense, and with a concert of traditional East European folk music.