Polish American Congress on Capitol Hill

March 24-25, 2009 (page 2)

The next day, March 25th, began with a meeting with Senator George Voinovich (D-OH) in his well-appointed 'hideaway' – a small office in the Capitol Building (photo at left). Spula presented Voinovich with a Polish American Congress Medal of Freedom – the highest decoration of the Organization, which is presented to carefully selected individuals in recognition of their “extraordinary achievements and dedication to the betterment of the Polish American community in the United States and of the people of Poland.” Previous recipients of the Medal include U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and long-time PAC officer – the late Casimir Lenard.

with Sen. Durbin
with Sen. Specter
with Sen. Burris

After the session, the PAC representatives met in separate sessions with four more U.S. Senators. These included Richard Durbin (D-IL), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Roland Burris (D-IL), (photos at rightand Barbara Mikulski (D-MD). Because Senator Mikulski was tied up on the Senate floor until the very last minute, while waiting for her the group met with Frank Cristenzio, one of the senator's key legislative assistants. The delegation met with the Senator Mikulski later that day during the Central and Eastern European Coalition (CEEC) reception (report here).

All of the Capitol Hill meetings had as one of their main topics the inclusion of Poland in the Visa Waiver Program. The delegation consistently emphasized the urgency of having the lamentable situation endured for too long remedied in the near future. The PAC delegation offered not only some ideas as to possible courses of action but also, and more importantly, offered its broad readiness for support and cooperation with the congressional offices in order to finally make Poland’s inclusion in the VWP a reality.

The PAC was pleased to note that some much-needed actions had already taken place. For example, in the run-up to the meeting, Senator Voinovich’s office put Dr. Andersen in touch with an associate director in the Office of Legislative Affairs at the Department of Homeland Security, their contact person who deals with the matters relating to the Visa Waiver Program.

In the spirit of cooperation, the PAC delegation also suggested to the legislators that they introduce resolutions on the Senate floor commemorating some of the most important anniversaries that take place this year. Those, very positively received, initiatives include the following:

  1. Commemoration of the 65th Anniversary of the Polish American Congress (Sen. Durbin)
  2. Commemoration of Poles who were helping Jews during WWII, based on the records of Yad Vashem (Senator Specter/a draft of the resolution was already forwarded to the Senator’s office)
  3. 70th Anniversary of the beginning of WWII & 65th Anniversary of the Battle of Monte Cassino and Polish participation (Senator Voinovich)
  4. 20th Anniversary of the Round Table talks in Poland & 20th Anniversary of the beginning of free elections in Poland (Senator Mikulski)
  5. 230th Anniversary of the death of Casimir Pulaski (Senator Burris)

The day ended with the group's participation in a policy reception entitled "In Honor of NATO and its Enlargement," hosted by the Central and Eastern European Coalition, that was also held that day on the Capitol Hill (report here).

"Although our time on Capitol Hill was short, not lasting even long enough to see Washington's fabled cherry trees in blossom, it was without a doubt one of the most successful education efforts made by the PAC in recent times at the federal level," Spula noted.

"We took forward to pressing ahead during the current Congress, buoyed by the knowledge that we already have an important number of supporters in the Senate and House of Representatives, and thankful that our voice is heard where its counts the most--by our elected officials in the nation's capital."

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Photos: Office of Sen. Durbin; Polish American Congress

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