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erkuThe newly elected EANC executive committee posed for a photo-op. On the photo are (from the left): Matti Priima, Maia Linask, Mirjam Krull, Mai-Liis Barthing, Marju Rink-Abel (council president), Eric Suuberg, Arne Kalm, Kristi Allpere, Andres Simonson. Not present at the meeting (but also elected) were Tiina Urv and Alvar Soosaar.  Photo: Arved Plaks

 

The Estonian American National Council meeting was held in Stamford Connecticut. This meeting was special because it was at the end of the four-year cycle, and a newly elected council membership met for the first time. The election, which was held the preceding summer, fielded 32 candidates from which the 30 highest vote getters were declared as elected.


The number 30 is significant in that it reflects a built-in procedure that accounts for a fluctuating number of candidates running for council membership in each election.  For comparison, the previous council had 35 members, but only after the first round had not produce enough candidates.  This time, a sufficient number of candidates emerged in the first round.  Of the 30 elected members, 13 were new (11 were present) and 17 had also served during the previous four years (15 present).  It would seem that this was a good balance between members that will assure continuity and members who bring new ideas, especially since they came from a younger generation.


The meeting was held over two days, 27 – 28 September. On the first day, the new members were introduced to the procedures of the council by Marju Rink-Abel, the past president, and heard from representatives from organizations with which EANC works in close cooperation or helps fund. Among the people addressed the meeting were Karl Altau, Managing Director of the Joint Baltic American National Committee, Linda Rink, EANC Executive Director  and Jüri Tint, head of the election committee.


The meeting had a lively discussion related to what language would be used at the meeting. There were many considerations, such as some of the newer members are be able to express themselves better in English than in Estonian, having had their careers in an English-speaking society. Also, English would be a common denominator. It was recognized also that the trend would be towards English in the long run as the involvement of even younger people would be needed. However, the motion to make this an all-English language meeting was voted down. After all, this is an Estonian American organization. The compromise solution was that while English would be the primary business language, those more comfortable with Estonian would speak in Estonian. True, there were members present who were born in prewar Estonia, and also newcomers from Estonia. Even between them language differences exist, since new words have been added to the Estonian language since the war.  But all understood English.


Eerik Marmei, the Estonian ambassador who recently replaced Marina Kaljurand, gave an informal presentation of the major themes and issues facing Estonia, some of which EANC may have a role in supporting.  In particular, help is required to pass legislation (S.2828 - Ukraine Freedom Support Act of 2014) to provide armaments to Ukraine, and to provide funding of a one-billion-dollar program for military exercises in Europe as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.


In the afternoon, well-attended panel discussions were held covering the topic, Estonians in America: Past, Present and Future. Appropriately, the time frame covered was from the 1944 to the present, this being the anniversary of 70 years since the great flight of refugees from the Soviet invasion of Estonia.


The presenters were 1) the past: Arved Plaks and Arne Kalm, 2) the present:  Laas Leivat (newly elected president of the Estonian World Council, and honorary Consul General in Canada; Priit Vesilind, former editor at the National Geographic Society, author. and currently commissioned to edit a book „Estonians in America“; Marcus Kolga, documentary filmmaker; and Toivo Tänasuu, journalist from "Eesti Ekspress." He is also the founder of a fund for helping with medical costs of cancer drugs in Estonia. 3) the future: Andres Simonson, a project manager for an engineering firm, who writes periodically for the online website specializing in global Estonian issues; Mirjam Krull, who was born in Estonia and has been living in the U.S. for 15 years, is employed as a fund raiser and is the chair of the Washington (DC) Estonian Society; Andrus Viirg, director of Enterprise Estonia, Silicon Valley, with the responsibility of building up a network of contacts for Estonian tech companies, and promoting Estonia as a place to do business. It may be possible that we may read in more detail in the future of the activities of the preceding presenters.

 

The evening was capped with a formal dinner at which several people were presented with EANC awards:


Jaak Juhansoo – Distinguished Service Award, for having been  long active in the Estonian American community and past president of the Estonian World Council


The Nordic Press, Inc, - Outstanding Organization Award. Sirje Uriko, president of the Nordic Press, which publishes the Vaba Eesti Sõna weekly newspaper, accepted the award.


Jim and Maureen Tusty- Outstanding Achievement Award as  producers of the widely-seen documentary films, “The Singing Revolution” and “To Breathe as One”


The Estonian Boy Scouts – Outstanding Organiztion Award accepted by Tiina Fischgrund.

 
The Estonian Girl Guides – Outstanding Organization Award accepted by Leena Kangro.


Sunday, the EANC meeting continued with the election of the board of directors, and other offices.  First, Marju Rink-Abel was re-elected to the position of Council president by acclamation, as there were no other candidates nominated.  Traditionally, the newly-elected president proposes a slate of candidates for the board of directors to ensure a balanced representation. In addition to the nine names she proposed, three additional people were nominated from the floor. The paper ballot election resulted in the election of all those proposed by the chair, and one additional candidate.


Arved Plaks

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